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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Vogelfrei in German usage denotes the status of a person on whom a legal penalty of outlawry has been imposed. However, the original meaning of the term referred to independence, being "free as a bird"; the current negative meaning developed only in the 16th century. It then came to predominate through the influence of Baroque poetry and of Jacob Grimm's Deutsche Grammatik (German Grammar; 1819).

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