il·​lib·​er·​al | \ (ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-b(ə-)rəl How to pronounce illiberal (audio) \

Definition of illiberal

: not liberal: such as
a : not broad-minded : bigoted illiberal thinking
b : opposed to liberalism illiberal tendencies
c : not requiring the background of a liberal arts education illiberal occupations
d archaic : not generous : stingy
e archaic
(1) : lacking a liberal education
(2) : lacking culture and refinement

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Other Words from illiberal

illiberality \ (ˌ)i(l)-​ˌli-​bə-​ˈra-​lə-​tē How to pronounce illiberality (audio) \ noun
illiberally \ (ˌ)i(l)-​ˈli-​b(ə-​)rə-​lē How to pronounce illiberally (audio) \ adverb
illiberalness \ (ˌ)i(l)-​ˈli-​b(ə-​)rəl-​nəs How to pronounce illiberalness (audio) \ noun

Examples of illiberal in a Sentence

an illiberal attitude toward sex an illiberal society that viewed any artistic depiction of the nude as inherently indecent
Recent Examples on the Web Cercas is a man of the Left (though not the illiberal Left). Jay Nordlinger, National Review, "Heroism, War, and Hell," 20 Apr. 2020 Once in power in 1933, the Nazis eagerly exploited these democratic but illiberal precedents to target the opposition press until it could be crushed entirely. The Economist, "Even noxious ideas need airing—censorship only makes them stronger," 31 Jan. 2020 How had a progressive democrat become so illiberal? Walter Lippmann, Harper's Magazine, "Fifty-One Percent," 27 Apr. 2020 During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, for instance, liberal churches created the sanctuary movement, giving shelter to refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala, countries where the United States was backing illiberal regimes. Nick Tabor, Washington Post, "Can Shane Claiborne’s progressive version of evangelical Christianity catch on with a new generation?," 6 Jan. 2020 Instead Putin seeks to promote an illiberal alternative where fake democratic trappings disguise a lack of such values. Trudy Rubin, The Mercury News, "Rubin: How President Trump got trolled by Russian President Putin," 1 July 2019 Not one of these events dented the absolute certainty of liberal pundits and Democratic politicians in making deeply illiberal arguments, so long as the targets were Republicans. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, "Joe Biden, Democrats, and Sexual Assault: They Never Learn," 30 Mar. 2020 The free West has a far brighter future than illiberal alternatives ... Don’t be fooled. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Doesn’t 'reflect reality': Mike Pompeo rejects German president’s complaint about Trump," 15 Feb. 2020 Now observers and diplomats fear Sri Lanka is slipping back into illiberal democracy. Dharisha Bastians,, "US bars Sri Lankan Army chief accused of war crimes," 15 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'illiberal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of illiberal

1535, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for illiberal

Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin illiberalis ignoble, stingy, from Latin in- + liberalis liberal

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Time Traveler for illiberal

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The first known use of illiberal was in 1535

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Statistics for illiberal

Last Updated

14 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Illiberal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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How to pronounce illiberal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of illiberal

formal : not allowing people to think and act as they choose : not liberal

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