AskDefine | Define livery

Dictionary Definition

livery adj : suffering from or suggesting a liver disorder or gastric distress [syn: bilious, liverish]


1 uniform worn by some menservants and chauffeurs
2 the voluntary transfer of something (title or possession) from one party to another [syn: delivery, legal transfer]
3 the care (feeding and stabling) of horses for pay

User Contributed Dictionary



From livere, from livrée.


  1. Any distinctive uniform worn by a group, such as the uniform worn by chauffeurs and male servants.
    By wearing livery, the brewers publicly expressed guild association and solidarity; - J. M. Bennett
  2. the rental of horses and/or carriages; the rental of canoes; the care and/or boarding of horses for money.
  3. The delivery of property from one owner to the next.
  4. The paint scheme of a vehicle or fleet of vehicles.
    The airline's new livery received a mixed reaction from the press.
  5. A taxicab or limousine.


distinctive uniform worn by a group, such as the uniform worn by chauffeurs and male servants


  1. To clothe in.
    He liveried his servents in the most modest of clothing


Extensive Definition

A livery is a uniform or other sign worn in a non-military context on a person or object (such as an airplane or vehicle) to denote a relationship with a person or corporate body, often by using elements of the heraldry relating to that person or body, or a personal emblem, and normally given by them. It derives from the French livrée, meaning delivered. Most often it would indicate that the person was a servant, dependent, follower or friend of the owner of the livery, or, for objects, that the object belonged to them.


In the 1300s, "livery" referred to an allowance of any kind (for instance the city of Exeter in Devon, England has a street called "Livery Dole" after the Livery Dole Almshouses and Chapel, founded in March 1591), but especially clothes delivered to servants and members of the household. Such things might be kept in a "livery cupboard."
During the 14th century specific colours, often with a device or badge sewn on, denoting a great person began to be used for both his soldiers and his civilian followers (often the two overlapped considerably), and the modern sense of the term began to form. Usually two different colours were used together, but the ways in which they were combined varied with rank. Often the colours used were different each year - a strange echo of modern football teams. As well as embroidered badges, metal ones were sewn onto clothing, or hung on neck-chains or (much the most prestigious) livery collars. From the sixteenth century, only the lower status followers tended to receive clothes in livery colours (whilst the higher status ones received cash) and the term "servant", previously much wider, also began to be restricted to describing the same people. Municipalities and corporations copied the behaviour of the great households.
The term is also used to describe badges and grander pieces of jewellery containing the heraldic signs of an individual, which were given by that person to friends, followers and distinguished visitors, as well as (in more modest forms) servants. The grandest of these is the livery collar. William, Lord Hastings the favourite of King Edward IV of England had a "Coller of gold of K. Edward's lyverys" valued at the enormous sum of £40 in an inventory of 1489. This would have been similar to the collars worn by Hastings' sister and her husband Sir John Donne in the Donne Triptych by Hans Memling (described in Sir John Donne). Lords gave their servants lead or pewter badges to sew onto their clothes. In the 15th century European royalty sometimes distributed uniform suits of clothes to courtiers, as the House of Fugger, the leading bankers, did to all employees.
The sense later contracted to servants' rations and distinctive standardized outfits, often in a colour-scheme distinctive to the family, like the coats worn by footmen in grand houses until World War I, and to provender for horses, from which we have inherited "livery stable" (1705)

Modern usage

From this core meaning, multiple extended or specialist meanings have derived. Examples include:
  • A livery company is the name used for a guild in the City of London; members of the company were allowed to dress their servants in the distinctive uniform of their trade, and the company's charters enabled them to prevent others from embarking upon the trades within the company's jurisdiction.
  • Following on from the decoration of horse-drawn carriages, a livery is the common design and paint scheme a company will use on its vehicles, often using specific colors and logo placement. In this sense, the term is applied to railway locomotives and rolling stock, ships, aircraft, and road vehicles. For example, United Parcel Service has trucks with a well-known brown livery. Another example is the British Airways ethnic liveries. The term has become extended to the logos, colors and other distinctive styles of companies in general. See also trade dress.
  • A livery is the specific paint scheme and sticker design used in motorsport, on vehicles, in order to attract sponsorship and to advertise sponsors. See e.g. Formula One sponsorship liveries.
  • Livery is also the term describing the paint scheme of an aircraft. Most airlines have a standard paint scheme for their aircraft fleet, usually prominently displaying the airline logo or name. From time to time special liveries are introduced, for example prior to big events.
  • A "livery vehicle" remains a legalism in the U.S. for a vehicle for hire, such as a taxicab or chauffered limousine, but excluding a rented vehicle driven by the renter. In some jurisdictions a "livery vehicle" covers vehicles that carry up to seven passengers, but not more, thus including a jitney but excluding an omnibus or motorcoach. This usage stems from the hackney cabs or coaches that could be provided by a livery stable. By extension, Canada has many businesses offering canoe livery.
  • The care, feeding, stabling, etc., of horses for pay.
The term is now rarely if ever applied in a military context, so it would be unusual for "livery" to refer to a military uniform or the painting of a military vehicle. Early uniforms were however regarded as a form of livery ("the King's coat") in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.


livery in German: Livree
livery in Dutch: Livrei
livery in Polish: Liberia (ubiór)
livery in Russian: Ливрея
livery in Swedish: Livré

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accouterments, armory, badge, badge of office, badges, baton, blazonry, brassard, button, cap and gown, caparison, chain, chain of office, class ring, cockade, collar, cross, decoration, dress, eagle, emblems, ensigns, fasces, figurehead, fleur-de-lis, furnishings, getup, hammer and sickle, harness, heraldry, insignia, lapel pin, mace, mantle, markings, medal, mortarboard, old school tie, outfit, pin, regalia, rig, ring, rose, school ring, shamrock, sigillography, skull and crossbones, sphragistics, staff, swastika, tartan, things, thistle, tie, trappings, trousseau, turnout, uniform, verge, wand, wardrobe
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