il·​lib·​er·​al (ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-b(ə-)rəl How to pronounce illiberal (audio)
: not liberal: such as
: not broad-minded : bigoted
illiberal thinking
: opposed to liberalism
illiberal tendencies
: not requiring the background of a liberal arts education
illiberal occupations
archaic : not generous : stingy
e archaic
: lacking a liberal education
: lacking culture and refinement
illiberally adverb
illiberalness 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 The long-ruling illiberal leader makes no secret of his distaste for the liberal underpinnings of the European Union’s political project. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 2 Feb. 2024 The fascist powers initially had little in common except illiberal governance and a desire to shatter the status quo. Hal Brands, Foreign Affairs, 26 Jan. 2024 These are the sorts of illiberal ideas that have risen in popularity. Richard K. Sherwin, Baltimore Sun, 19 Jan. 2024 The idea that a President DeSantis could somehow be a more dangerously illiberal figure than Trump seems risible after watching both of them campaign. Ross Douthat, The Mercury News, 17 Jan. 2024 That kind of state control may be over, even in illiberal Hungary. Jason Farago, New York Times, 11 Jan. 2024 The beau ideal of illiberal democracy is, of course, Viktor Orbán of Hungary, who outlined the term in a 2014 speech. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, 31 Jan. 2024 In society after society, illiberal values and politicians who embrace them are gaining ground. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 3 Jan. 2024 Netanyahu was building alliances with the illiberal governments of Central European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, in part to prevent an anti-occupation consensus from solidifying in the European Union. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, 9 Dec. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'illiberal.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1535, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of illiberal was in 1535

Dictionary Entries Near illiberal

Cite this Entry

“Illiberal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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