Ama-gi is a Sumerian word written 𒂼𒄄 ama-gi4 or 𒂼𒅈𒄄 ama-ar-gi4. It 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]

𒂼𒄄 ama-gi4 written in Classical Sumerian cuneiform

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 reforms of Urukagina.[7] By the Third Dynasty of Ur, it was used as a legal term for the manumission of individuals.[7]

It is related to the Akkadian word anduraāru(m), meaning "freedom", "exemption" and "release from (debt) slavery".[3][8][9]

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'".[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 has the symbol tattooed on his left forearm.


  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.
  4. ^ Åke W. Sjöberg, ed. (1998). The Sumerian Dictionary of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Philadelphia. pp. 200–201, 208–210.
  5. ^ A Descriptive Grammar of Sumerian
  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". 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
  13. ^ "Trademark Electronic Search System". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
  14. ^ "Trademark Electronic Search System". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011.