A Freebox in Berlin, Germany 2005, serving as a distribution center for free donated materials

Gratis is the process of providing goods or services without compensation. It is often referred to in English as "free of charge" (FOC) or "complimentary". Companies, producers, and service providers often provide certain things free of charge as part of a larger business model or pricing strategy.



The English term gratis has its origins in late Middle English; from Latin. A contraction of gratiis, meaning 'as a kindness', which in turn stems from the root gratia meaning 'grace' or 'kindness'.[1] It is widely used in the Czech, Polish, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Bahasa Indonesia, Scandinavian and German languages, with the same meaning.


In a standard business model where goods and services are exchanged for a monetary compensation, pricing of the goods is a fundamental element of the marketing process. While it would defeat the business model if companies provide all of their goods and services free of charge, it is common for them to provide limited amount of free goods in their promotional mix. Many companies often provide free samples to the press in order to generate media coverage for their products. Depending on the product, companies may provide free samples to prospective buyers.

In addition, many companies would often provide complementary goods and services free of charge. For example, coffeehouses often provide Internet access free of charge to attract more customers. Hotels often provide free shuttle services. Restaurants often provide valet parking service free of charge.

Companies may also distribute branded stationery, refrigerator magnet, or similar items free to promote their brand instead of any specific line of products.

Mass media

In certain industries, such as the mass media where major part of the revenue comes from advertisers, it is often in the company's interest to reach as many people as possible. In this model, companies would often distribute most of their products and services free of charge, so it can reach the largest possible audience. The companies would then attempt to recoup all costs from advertising.


In software development, where the cost of mass production is relatively small, it is common for developers to publish software under free of charge licenses.

One of the early and basic forms of this model is called freeware. Under a freeware license, software is licensed free of charge for regular use and the developer does not gain any monetary compensation.

With the development of the software industry, other license schemes arose similar to limited free products in standard marketing. These licenses offer users limited use, while attempting to recuperate development cost through the full product. Two common examples are shareware and trialware.

With the advent of the free software movement, license schemes were created to give developers more freedom in terms of code sharing. A distinction has to be drawn between "freedom" and "free of charge", where the latter sometimes also can be referred to as "free as in beer". This distinction is often called Gratis versus Libre.

See also


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  • gratis — [ gratis ] adv. • 1496; adv. lat. (REM. Aujourd hui, souvent ressenti comme familier) Sans qu il en coûte rien au bénéficiaire. ⇒ gratuitement (cf. fam. À l œil). Assister gratis à un spectacle. Demain on rase gratis. ♢ Adj. Spectacle, billet… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • gratis — GRÁTIS adv. Fără plată, fără bani, în mod gratuit. ♢ Pe gratis = a) fără plată; b) fig. fără motiv, în mod nejustificat. – Din fr. gratis, lat. gratis. Trimis de gall, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  GRÁTIS adv. degeaba, gratuit, (pop.) geaba. (A da… …   Dicționar Român

  • gratis — grat‧is [ˈgræts, ˈgreɪts] adverb free: • His work for the charity is performed gratis. gratis adjective : • There s a small charge for some programs; others are gratis. * * * Ⅰ. gratis UK US /ˈgrætɪs/ adverb COMMERCE ► …   Financial and business terms

  • gratis — Gratis. adv. Par une pure grace, sans qu il en couste rien. On luy a donné ses Bulles gratis. on luy a expedié ses Provisions, ses Lettres gratis. on a escrit sur son Arrest Gratis. Il est quelquefois substantif. Il demande le gratis de ses… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • gratis — Adj std. (16. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus l. grātīs umsonst , zu l. grātia Gefallen (Ablativ Plural gratiīs), zu l. grātus erwünscht, willkommen . Also etwa: aus Erkenntlichkeit .    Ebenso nndl. gratis, ne. gratis, gratuitous, nfrz. gratis,… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • gratis — Como adjetivo, ‘gratuito’: «La sal y el agua son gratis» (Martínez Evita [Arg. 1995]); y, como adverbio, ‘gratuitamente, sin pagar nada’: «Nos alojaba gratis» (Bryce Vida [Perú 1981]). Debe evitarse en el habla culta la expresión ⊕ de gratis, que …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

  • GRATIS — libri nomen, qui in Academia Cracoviensi, contra Iesuitas prodiit, quo magnopere hi arguuntur, quod dum se gratis docere simulent, bona Nobilium ac divitias ingentes, ad se pertrahant. Flammis iussu Regis datus: interim in Comitiis regni A. C.… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Gratis — Gratis, OH U.S. village in Ohio Population (2000): 934 Housing Units (2000): 361 Land area (2000): 0.944171 sq. miles (2.445391 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.944171 sq. miles (2.445391 sq.… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Gratis, OH — U.S. village in Ohio Population (2000): 934 Housing Units (2000): 361 Land area (2000): 0.944171 sq. miles (2.445391 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.944171 sq. miles (2.445391 sq. km) FIPS code …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • gratis — adjetivo 1. (invariable) Uso/registro: coloquial. Que no cuesta dinero: He conseguido una partida gratis. Sinónimo: gratuito. adverbio 1. Sin tener que pagar o cobrar …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • gratis — I adjective as a favor, complimentary, costless, expenseless, for nothing, free, free of charge, free of cost, free of expense, gratiis, gratuito, unbought, unpaid for, unrecompensed, voluntary, without charge, without consideration, without… …   Law dictionary

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