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

Their three-year romance included liberal helpings of drama: public feuds with Tyga's baby mama (who later had a baby with Kylie's brother, Rob Kardashian), continuous pregnancy rumors, and multiple messy public breakups. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Everything You Need to Know About All of Kylie Jenner's Ex-Boyfriends," 20 Mar. 2019 The measures have drawn a swift backlash in a liberal-leaning city ringed by more conservative suburbs where there is a long tradition of gun ownership. Kris Maher, WSJ, "After Synagogue Attack, Pittsburgh’s Push for Stricter Gun Laws Sparks Backlash," 11 Feb. 2019 The best outcome from this meeting that will undermine liberal democracies and encourage strongmen the world over would be maintenance of the status quo and a public relations coup for Putin. Nina Jankowicz, The New Republic, "Available in Helsinki: the Fate of Eastern Europe," 13 July 2018 Given that Bell had been instrumental in the Carter-era creation of the Department of Education, the move perplexed just about everyone in Washington, conservative and liberal. Chuck Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "The State of American Trade Schools," 13 Mar. 2019 The case has been closely watched by conservatives who see universities as liberal havens, as well as private businesses that want control over employee discipline. Washington Post, "Wisconsin high court sides with fired conservative professor," 6 July 2018 The key is to stay away from the liberal media and make my way to conservative outlets, where Professor Dershowitz would presumably be likely to turn up this week. Christopher Bonanos, The Cut, "Searching for Alan Dershowitz on Martha’s Vineyard," 5 July 2018 Further, many people believe that, as one of the Supreme Court’s longest-serving liberal justices, Ginsburg could well be the only person who can prevent such a rightward shift from happening — if only by virtue of staying alive. Aja Romano, Vox, "“Protect RBG” memes capture cultural anxiety over the Supreme Court," 9 Nov. 2018 Kennedy was the deciding vote, joining the court’s four liberal justices. Emily Atkin, The New Republic, "How the New Supreme Court Could Halt Climate Action," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Shapiro makes a living having takes that are intended to aggravate liberals, and, consequently, is beloved by a certain group of conservatives. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "When Men Demand Your Attention, It's OK to Ignore Them," 22 Aug. 2018 Nixon graduated from Whittier, a small liberal-arts school in Southern California, in 1934. Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic, "Penn's Awkward Relationship With Its Most Famous Alumnus, Donald J. Trump," 15 May 2018 April's delay reflected criminal justice reform advocates' and liberals' dissatisfaction with the legislation, which offered federal prison reform but did not include a component to reform federal sentencing guidelines. Eli Watkins, CNN, "House panel advances bill to improve US prisons," 9 May 2018 Joe Biden has yet to join the 2020 presidential race, but the former vice president is already getting the Hillary Clinton treatment from liberals who seem more interested in ideological purity tests than beating Donald Trump. Jason L. Riley, WSJ, "Biden Opposed Quotas in 1975—and He Was Right," 12 Mar. 2019 Sessions has been on the receiving end of criticism from liberals questioning the former lawmaker's commitment to protecting the civil rights of people of color past or present. Eugene Scott, Washington Post, "Why there’s little optimism after the Justice Department reopened the Emmett Till case," 12 July 2018 One possibility, though, is that black voters skew more Democratic, and the election occurred during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, which sharply divided liberals and conservatives. Alex Ward, Vox, "4 main takeaways from new reports on Russia’s 2016 election interference," 17 Dec. 2018 In 2006, Kennedy staked out a middle-ground position between the court's liberals and other conservatives in an unusual 4-1-4 split. Dino Grandoni, Washington Post, "The Energy 202: How Brett Kavanaugh could rein in environmental rules on the Supreme Court," 11 July 2018 However, that was the only term-end decision that both liberals and conservatives could cheer. David G. Savage, latimes.com, "Supreme Court this year gave a preview of things to come: Wins for Trump, employers and Republicans," 1 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 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

9 Apr 2019

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
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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