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𒂼𒄄 ama-gi4 written in Classical Sumerian cuneiform

Ama-gi is a Sumerian word written 𒂼𒄄 ama-gi4 or 𒂼𒅈𒄄 ama-ar-gi4. Sumerians used it to refer to release from obligations, debt, slavery, taxation, or punishment. Ama-gi has been regarded as the first known written reference to the concept of freedom, and has been used in modern times as a symbol for libertarianism.

Sumerian use[edit]

Enmetena's foundation stone contains the first known mention of the word Ama-gi

Ama-gi has been translated as "freedom", as well as "manumission", "exemption from debts or obligations",[1] and "the restoration of persons and property to their original status" including the remission of debts.[2] Other interpretations include a "reversion to a previous state"[3] and release from debt, slavery, taxation or punishment.[4]

The word originates from the noun ama "mother" (sometimes with the enclitic dative case marker ar), and the present participle gi4 "return, restore, put back", thus literally meaning "returning to mother".[5] Assyriologist Samuel Noah Kramer has identified it as the first known written reference to the concept of freedom. Referring to its literal meaning "return to the mother", he wrote in 1963 that "we still do not know why this figure of speech came to be used for 'freedom'."[6]

The earliest known usage of the word was in the decree of Enmetena restoring "the child to his mother and the mother to her child."[7] By the Third Dynasty of Ur, it was used as a legal term for the manumission of individuals.[7]

In some cuneiform texts, it is translated by the Akkadian word andurāru(m), meaning "freedom", "exemption" and "release from (debt) slavery".[3][8][9]

Modern libertarian use[edit]

A number of libertarian organizations have adopted the cuneiform glyph as a symbol claiming it is "the earliest-known written appearance of the word 'freedom' or 'liberty.'"[10] It is used as a logo by the Instituto Político para la Libertad of Peru,[11] the New Economic School – Georgia,[12] Libertarian publishing firm Liberty Fund,[13] and was the name and logo of the journal of the London School of Economics' Hayek Society.[14] British musician Frank Turner and Alberta premier Danielle Smith have the symbol tattooed on their forearms.


  1. ^ John Alan Halloran (2006). Sumerian Lexicon: A Dictionary Guide to the Ancient Sumerian Language. David Brown Book Company. p. 19. ISBN 978-0978642907.
  2. ^ Karen Radner, Eleanor Robson, ed. (2011). The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Oxford University Press. pp. 208–209. ISBN 978-0199557301.
  3. ^ a b "amargi". Electronic Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary. Archived from the original on 2022-07-16. Retrieved 2015-08-03.
  4. ^ Åke W. Sjöberg, ed. (1998). The Sumerian Dictionary of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Philadelphia. pp. 200–201, 208–210.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  5. ^ "A Descriptive Grammar of Sumerian" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-11-12. Retrieved 2015-08-03.
  6. ^ Kramer, Samuel Noah (1963). The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. University of Chicago Press. p. 79. ISBN 0226452387.
  7. ^ a b Niels Peter Lemche (2014). Biblical Studies and the Failure of History: Changing Perspectives 3. Taylor & Francis. pp. 72–. ISBN 978-1317544944.
  8. ^ Niels Peter Lemche (January 1979). "Andurārum and Mīšarum: Comments on the Problem of Social Edicts and Their Application in the Ancient near East". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 38 (1): 11–22. doi:10.1086/372688. JSTOR 544568. S2CID 162196494.
  9. ^ Jeremy A. Black; Andrew George; J. N. Postgate (2000). A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 17. ISBN 978-3447042642.
  10. ^ "Our Logo | Liberty Fund". Archived from the original on 2022-04-22. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  11. ^ "Instituto Politico para la Libertad – Inicio". Archived from the original on 31 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  12. ^ "New Economic School – Georgia". Archived from the original on 2021-01-26. Retrieved 2017-04-20.
  13. ^ "Trademark Electronic Search System". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Archived from the original on 2019-05-03. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
  14. ^ "Trademark Electronic Search System". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011.