liberal

adjective
lib·er·al | \ ˈli-b(ə-)rəl \

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 \

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 \ 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

Putin wants to weaken U.S. power in the world and undermine the liberal world order, including institutions like NATO and the European Union. Joshua Tucker, Washington Post, "Will it be ‘happy talk’ — or will Trump and Putin focus on arms control and other critical issues?," 13 July 2018 Britain and America share common values that have formed the basis for the liberal, democratic world order. David Lammy, Time, "I'm a British Lawmaker. Here's Why I’m Protesting Trump’s Visit to the U.K.," 10 July 2018 Washington Is the Trump administration out to wreck the liberal world order? Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "Pompeo on What Trump Wants," 25 June 2018 The liberal order always depended on American leadership. George Packer, The New Yorker, "Donald Trump Goes Rogue," 17 June 2018 Bashed by conservatives as too liberal, McCaskill has campaigned heavily outside Missouri’s Democratic strongholds in St. Louis and Kansas City. USA TODAY, "'Pivot counties' will be key in fight for Senate control," 10 July 2018 Some of those services have liberal sharing policies, but most require that multiple people using a login be in the same household or immediate family. Dwight Silverman, San Antonio Express-News, "How to be a good internet citizen," 3 July 2018 Stark polarization in the country is nothing new (urban vs. rural, conservative vs. liberal, Fox vs. MSNBC, whites vs. everyone else), but through his words and actions, Trump seems to have brought out a particular venom. Angela Helm, The Root, "Poll: One-Third of Americans, Nearly Half of Black People Think We’re Headed for Another Civil War," 29 June 2018 Kennedy, who was considered the Supreme Court's key swing vote, could throw off the conservative-liberal balance of the bench with his retirement, but there was no trace of anxiety in Ginsburg's sweet tribute to him. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "Twitter Users Promise to Protect Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at All Costs After SCOTUS Shakeup," 29 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Conservatives give their boys masculine names like Kurt, while liberals opt for the more feminine-sounding options such as Liam. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "White Americans love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—and flashlights.," 10 July 2018 These kids are being coached, they’re given scripts to read by liberals, according to The New Yorker. Karen Mizoguchi, PEOPLE.com, "From Trump to Ann Coulter: Fact-Checking the Most Outrageous Claims About the Migrant Children Crisis," 19 June 2018 The party came in fourth place, with 12.5 percent of the vote, and it was buttressed by non-Kurdish liberal Turks, who rallied around environmental causes and gay rights, among other issues. Newsweek, "President Obama’s Border Disorder," 14 Mar. 2018 All six boast hosts who are outspoken liberals who mock Trump on a regular basis. Brian Flood, Fox News, "Samantha Bee speaks out about crude Ivanka Trump rant, says uproar affected her ‘a lot’," 13 July 2018 As liberals such as Beveridge realised, the best way to secure support for free markets is to give more people a stake in them. The Economist, "Capitalism needs a welfare state to survive," 12 July 2018 But in 2013, the Supreme Court's four liberals joined with Kennedy and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to reject Kavanaugh's interpretation. Dino Grandoni, Washington Post, "The Energy 202: How Brett Kavanaugh could rein in environmental rules on the Supreme Court," 11 July 2018 There are reasons liberals could come to like Kavanaugh, but the vote is still likely to be close. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, "5 Reasons Why Supreme Court Nominations Have Failed," 10 July 2018 There’s not that many things that liberals actually can do besides voting, obviously . . Laura Bradley, HWD, "Bill Maher Is Sure He Has the Funniest Show in Late Night," 5 July 2018

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

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

Noun

see liberal entry 1

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Learn More about liberal

Phrases Related to liberal

Liberal Democrat

Statistics for liberal

Last Updated

24 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

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

Liberal : 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

Liberal : 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 , 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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