at large - Cultural Definition
A descriptive term for the election of public officials by an entire governmental unit rather than by subdivisions of the unit. For example, a delegate at large does not represent any specific district or locale, but speaks instead for a much wider group of people.
at large - Legal Definition
- Free from confinement, control, or restraint.
- Chosen by the electorate of, or representing the residents of, an entire political unit, such as a state, country, or city, as opposed to a subdivision of the unit, such as a district, riding, or ward.
- Not ordered or organized by topics, especially when referring to a group of statutes or ordinances.
at large - Phrases/Idioms
Free, unconfined, especially not confined in prison, as in To our distress, the housebreakers were still at large. [1300s]
At length, fully; also, as a whole, in general. For example, The chairman talked at large about the company's plans for the coming year, or, as Shakespeare wrote in Love's Labour's Lost (1:1): “So to the laws at large I write my name” (that is, I uphold the laws in general). This usage is somewhat less common. [1400s]
Elected to represent an entire group of voters rather than those in a particular district or other segment—for example, alderman at large, representing all the wards of a city instead of just one, or delegate at large to a labor union convention. [Mid-1700s]