il·​lib·​er·​al | \(ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-b(ə-)rəl \

Definition of illiberal 

: not liberal: such as

a archaic

(1) : lacking a liberal education

(2) : lacking culture and refinement

b : not requiring the background of a liberal arts education illiberal occupations

c archaic : not generous : stingy

d : not broad-minded : bigoted illiberal thinking

e : opposed to liberalism illiberal tendencies

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Other Words from illiberal

illiberality \ (ˌ)i(l)-​ˌli-​bə-​ˈra-​lə-​tē \ noun
illiberally \ (ˌ)i(l)-​ˈli-​b(ə-​)rə-​lē \ adverb
illiberalness \ (ˌ)i(l)-​ˈli-​b(ə-​)rəl-​nəs \ 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 modern fascination with myth has never been free from an illiberal and anti-democratic agenda. Laurie Penny, Longreads, "Peterson’s Complaint," 12 July 2018 Long admired for its democratic achievements, Poland under Kaczynski's direction has taken what many considered to be an illiberal turn that has put the country in conflict with the European Union and Western allies. Vanessa Gera And Monika Scislowska, Fox News, "Official: Polish leader's ill health not sparking infighting," 22 June 2018 The 87-year-old Soros has become the whipping boy for illiberal nationalists from Washington to Moscow to Budapest. Trudy Rubin,, "Roseanne's other twisted tweet of the week. (The one you didn't already read about) | Trudy Rubin," 1 June 2018 Populism can indeed become a threat to democracy if populists in power undermine liberal institutions and enable the emergence of illiberal democracy that can, with time, degenerate into outright electoral autocracy. Angelos Chryssogelos, Time, "The Populism Debate Ignores the Real Lessons of Italy's Political Crisis," 31 May 2018 Kennedy’s most controversial, and putatively illiberal, stand was his opposition to the prevailing welfare system. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "RFK, Civic Republican," 25 May 2018 Mr Macron issued his customary battle-cry against illiberal populists and European naysayers—but also tried to dispel what seems to him to be a whiff of complacency. The Economist, "Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious plans for Europe are running aground," 19 Apr. 2018 But no one exemplifies the angry direction of post-communist Eastern Europe more than Viktor Orban, whose journey from liberal academic to illiberal populist is starker than any of his regional contemporaries. Patrick Kingsley, New York Times, "How a Liberal Dissident Became a Far-Right Hero, in Hungary and Beyond," 6 Apr. 2018 But with illiberal democracy on the rise throughout Europe, with a US president seemingly at war with the rule of law, Angela Merkel’s Germany finds itself as an unexpected island of liberal democracy in far more uncertain waters. Adrian Daub, New Republic, "What Babylon Berlin Sees in the Weimar Republic," 14 Feb. 2018

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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The first known use of illiberal was in 1535

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English Language Learners Definition of illiberal

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

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Comments on illiberal

What made you want to look up illiberal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express warning or disapproval

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