The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Livery \Liv"er*y\, n.; pl. Liveries. [OE. livere, F.
livr['e]e, formerly, a gift of clothes made by the master to
his servants, prop., a thing delivered, fr. livrer to
deliver, L. liberare to set free, in LL., to deliver up. See
1. (Eng. Law)
(a) The act of delivering possession of lands or
(b) The writ by which possession is obtained.
Note: It is usual to say, livery of seizin, which is a
feudal investiture, made by the delivery of a turf, of
a rod, a twig, or a key from the feoffor to the feoffee
as a symbol of delivery of the whole property. There
was a distinction of livery in deed when this
ceremony was performed on the property being
transferred, and livery in law when performed in
sight of the property, but not on it. In the United
States, and now in Great Britain, no such ceremony is
necessary, the delivery of a deed being sufficient as a
livery of seizin, regardless of where performed.
--Black's 4th Ed.
[1913 Webster +PJC]
2. Release from wardship; deliverance.
It concerned them first to sue out their livery from
the unjust wardship of his encroaching prerogative.
3. That which is delivered out statedly or formally, as
clothing, food, etc.; especially:
(a) The uniform clothing issued by feudal superiors to
their retainers and serving as a badge when in
(b) The peculiar dress by which the servants of a nobleman
or gentleman are distinguished; as, a claret-colored
(c) Hence, also, the peculiar dress or garb appropriated
by any association or body of persons to their own
use; as, the livery of the London tradesmen, of a
priest, of a charity school, etc.; also, the whole
body or company of persons wearing such a garb, and
entitled to the privileges of the association; as, the
whole livery of London.
A Haberdasher and a Carpenter,
A Webbe, a Dyer, and a Tapicer,
And they were clothed all in one livery
Of a solempne and a gret fraternite. --Chaucer.
From the periodical deliveries of these
characteristic articles of servile costume (blue
coats) came our word livery. --De Quincey.
(d) Hence, any characteristic dress or outward appearance.
" April's livery." --Sir P. Sidney.
Now came still evening on, and twilight gray
Had in her sober livery all things clad.
(e) An allowance of food statedly given out; a ration, as
to a family, to servants, to horses, etc.
The emperor's officers every night went through
the town from house to house whereat any English
gentleman did repast or lodge, and served their
liveries for all night: first, the officers
brought into the house a cast of fine manchet
[white bread], and of silver two great pots, and
white wine, and sugar. --Cavendish.
(f) The feeding, stabling, and care of horses for
compensation; boarding; as, to keep one's horses at
What livery is, we by common use in England know
well enough, namely, that is, allowance of horse
meat, as to keep horses at livery, the which
word, I guess, is derived of livering or
delivering forth their nightly food. --Spenser.
It need hardly be observed that the explanation
of livery which Spenser offers is perfectly
correct, but . . . it is no longer applied to
the ration or stated portion of food delivered
at stated periods. --Trench.
(g) The keeping of horses in readiness to be hired
temporarily for riding or driving; the state of being
so kept; also, the place where horses are so kept,
also called a livery stable.
Pegasus does not stand at livery even at the
largest establishment in Moorfields. --Lowell.
4. A low grade of wool.
Livery gown, the gown worn by a liveryman in London.