lais·​sez-faire ˌle-ˌsā-ˈfer How to pronounce laissez-faire (audio)
-ˌzā- How to pronounce laissez-faire (audio)
: a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary for the maintenance of peace and property rights
argued that the problem with oil prices was too much laissez-faire
: a philosophy or practice characterized by a usually deliberate abstention from direction or interference especially with individual freedom of choice and action
the university has a policy of laissez-faire regarding nonacademic student activities
laissez-faire adjective

Did you know?

The French phrase laissez faire literally means “allow to do,” with the idea being “let people do as they choose.” The origins of laissez-faire are associated with the Physiocrats, a group of 18th-century French economists who believed that government policy should not interfere with the operation of natural economic laws. (The actual coiner of the phrase may have been French economist Vincent de Gournay, or it may have been François Quesnay, who is considered the group’s founder and leader.) The original phrase was “laissez faire, laissez passer,” with the second part meaning “let (things) pass.” Laissez-faire, which first showed up in an English context in the first half of the 19th century, can still mean “a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs,” but it is also used in broader contexts in which a “hands-off” or “anything-goes” policy or attitude is adopted. It is frequently used as an adjective meaning “favoring a ‘hands-off’ policy,” as in “laissez-faire economics.”

Examples of laissez-faire in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The government-and-economics department had already sponsored a course called The Future of Capitalism, team-taught by colleagues whose views range from social-democratic to laissez-faire. Bernard Avishai, The New Yorker, 2 Feb. 2024 Seems like can't get enough of the amusing juxtaposition between Boomers' grumpy, laissez-faire parenting and Millennials' endlessly appeasing, hands-on style. Maressa Brown, Parents, 30 Jan. 2024 Alterations to the algorithm and a laissez-faire approach to moderation have lent X an air of sustained mayhem. Jason Parham, WIRED, 29 Jan. 2024 To support the company’s laissez-faire stance in the wake of its recent controversy, McKenzie cited a post from another Substack writer, Elle Griffin, that defended the platform’s approach of leaving content moderation largely to its individual writers. Will Oremus, Washington Post, 12 Jan. 2024 There’s a science to the seemingly laissez-faire act of sporting an oversize shirt. Erika Veurink, Vogue, 31 Dec. 2023 Until recently, Kick employed a laissez-faire approach to content moderation, which attracted controversial characters like Mr. Ross, who was banned from Twitch earlier this year. . Kellen Browning, New York Times, 2 Dec. 2023 This could range from transformational to democratic, autocratic, laissez-faire, or others. Jodie Cook, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 Florida, with its more laissez-faire approach, seemingly saw a less severe winter, prompting supporters to take something of a victory lap. Rong-Gong Lin Ii, Los Angeles Times, 27 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


French laissez faire, imperative of laisser faire to let (people) do (as they choose)

First Known Use

1814, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of laissez-faire was in 1814


Dictionary Entries Near laissez-faire

Cite this Entry

“Laissez-faire.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs
laissez-faire adjective

from the French phrase laissez faire "let (people) do (as they choose)"

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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