liberal

adjective
lib·​er·​al | \ ˈli-b(ə-)rəl How to pronounce liberal (audio) \

Definition of liberal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts liberal education
b archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth
2a : marked by generosity : openhanded a liberal giver
b : given or provided in a generous and openhanded way a liberal meal
c : ample, full
3 obsolete : lacking moral restraint : licentious
4 : not literal or strict : loose a liberal translation
5 : broad-minded especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms
6a : of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism
b capitalized : of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives

liberal

noun
lib·​er·​al | \ ˈli-b(ə-)rəl How to pronounce liberal (audio) \

Definition of liberal (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who is liberal: such as
a : one who is open-minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways
b capitalized : a member or supporter of a liberal political party (see liberal entry 1 sense 6)
c : an advocate or adherent of liberalism especially in individual rights

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Other Words from liberal

Adjective

liberally \ ˈli-​b(ə-​)rə-​lē How to pronounce liberally (audio) \ adverb
liberalness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for liberal

Adjective

liberal, generous, bountiful, munificent mean giving or given freely and unstintingly. liberal suggests openhandedness in the giver and largeness in the thing or amount given. a teacher liberal with her praise generous stresses warmhearted readiness to give more than size or importance of the gift. a generous offer of help bountiful suggests lavish, unremitting giving or providing. children spoiled by bountiful presents munificent suggests a scale of giving appropriate to lords or princes. a munificent foundation grant

Examples of liberal in a Sentence

Adjective

On most issues he was thought of as a generally liberal figure, but on gun control he was live-free-or-die National Rifle Association man. — Jonathan Raban, Harper's, Aug. 1993 Many fishermen keep their holes from freezing over with liberal injections of antifreeze. Time, 28 Feb. 1974 Alexandra looked at him mournfully. "I try to be more liberal about such things than I used to be. I try to realize that we are not all made alike … " — Willa Cather, O Pioneers!, 1913 This cost him considerable, for Dick was rather fastidious about his cigars, and wouldn't smoke the cheapest. Besides, having a liberal nature, he was generally ready to treat his companions. — Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick, 1868 She is a liberal Democrat who married a conservative Republican. She has a liberal attitude toward sex. He made a very liberal donation to the museum.

Noun

a policy that is supported both by liberals and conservatives in Congress
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

But Chief Justice John Roberts, joining four liberal justices, said Congress did have the power to impose a tax on those without insurance. Andrew O'reilly | Fox News, Fox News, "Texas lawyers argue for end of ObamaCare in case that could decide fate of health plan," 10 July 2019 But Chief Justice John Roberts, joining four liberal justices, said Congress did have the power to impose a tax on those without insurance. Washington Post, "Latest ‘Obamacare’ court battle plays out in New Orleans," 9 July 2019 But Chief Justice John Roberts, joining four liberal justices, said Congress did have the power to impose a tax on those without insurance. Rebecca Santana, chicagotribune.com, "Appeals court to hear arguments in lawsuit seeking to invalidate Obamacare," 9 July 2019 But Chief Justice John Roberts, joining four liberal justices, said Congress did have the power to impose a tax on those without insurance. CBS News, "Obamacare battle continues in New Orleans court," 9 July 2019 Chief Justice John Roberts has sided with the four liberal justices to rule against allowing the Trump administration to add citizenship to census. Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY, "Census citizenship question: what we know about the debate so far," 6 July 2019 Except that a court with five liberal justices likely wouldn’t have taken up the case in the first place. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Supreme Court Steps to the Right," 1 July 2019 But that cuts both ways: Gorsuch is more likely to take far-out conservative positions, but is also more likely to join the more liberal justices on a swing vote in cases that don’t represent core issues for legal conservatives. Scott Lemieux, Vox, "5 takeaways from the Supreme Court’s just-ended term," 29 June 2019 Chief Justice John Roberts was joined in the majority by the court’s four liberal justices. WSJ, "Supreme Court Decisions for This Term," 28 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

James O’Keefe, an activist who likes to capture videos under false pretenses to embarrass liberals and journalists, filmed the scene. Katie Rogers, New York Times, "White House Hosts Conservative Internet Activists at a ‘Social Media Summit’," 11 July 2019 Mature liberals and moderates know this will come back to bite them. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, "I Come to Bury Biden, Not to Praise Him," 11 July 2019 Gorsuch was at the bottom, with the court’s liberals and the iconoclastic Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative who specializes in dissent. Robert Barnes, Anchorage Daily News, "Gorsuch, Kavanaugh shift the Supreme Court, but their differences are striking," 30 June 2019 Lauren recommends this episode of the Ezra Klein podcast, on why liberals and conservatives create such different media. Wired Staff, WIRED, "Rebalancing Our Relationship With Tech," 28 June 2019 The Italian journey from constitutional monarchy to Fascist dictatorship is a cautionary tale for both liberals and conservatives. Joseph Loconte, National Review, "Mussolini and the End of Liberal Democracy," 25 June 2019 The news of Obama's fee immediately drew criticism from liberals and conservatives alike, and critics have pointed out how often the former president criticized big banks and the growing wealth inequality. The Editors, Town & Country, "Here's What Barack Obama Is Doing Now," 24 June 2019 Politics is kept off film sets here, but differences between liberals and conservatives, many of whom are native Georgians, are palpable if mostly left unspoken over religion, Trump, gun rights and immigration. Jeffrey Fleishman, chicagotribune.com, "Georgia’s abortion ban forces political reckoning among TV and film workers," 24 June 2019 Democrats in Congress have faced internal divisions over how high to raise the minimum wage, with the party’s liberals and much of the 2020 presidential field pushing for a $15 an hour minimum wage. Jeff Stein, The Denver Post, "America has never gone this long without hiking the federal minimum wage," 18 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'liberal.' 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 liberal

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Noun

1814, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for liberal

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin liberalis suitable for a freeman, generous, from liber free; perhaps akin to Old English lēodan to grow, Greek eleutheros free

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Statistics for liberal

Last Updated

16 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for liberal

The first known use of liberal was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for liberal

liberal

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of liberal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: believing that government should be active in supporting social and political change : relating to or supporting political liberalism
British : of or belonging to the liberal political party in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom
: not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted

liberal

noun

English Language Learners Definition of liberal (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who believes that government should be active in supporting social and political change : a person who is politically liberal
British : a member or supporter of a liberal political party in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada

liberal

adjective
lib·​er·​al | \ ˈli-bə-rəl How to pronounce liberal (audio) , ˈli-brəl\

Kids Definition of liberal

1 : not stingy : generous She made a liberal donation.
2 : not strict That's a liberal interpretation of the rule.
3 : broad sense 4 I got a liberal education.

Other Words from liberal

liberally adverb

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Comments on liberal

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