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


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


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

Choose the Right Synonym for liberal


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. 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 The court’s balance on the issue has shifted, with the liberal Ginsburg replaced by conservative Amy Coney Barrett. Washington Post, 24 July 2021 Turner, meanwhile, has more liberal groups lined up to support her, including Justice Democrats and the Working Families Party. cleveland, 24 July 2021 The move comes after Black Lives Matter and liberal politicians across the nation called for police departments to be defunded last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Fox News, 23 July 2021 The Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal group, filed the complaint against the American Legislative Exchange Council, which hosts conferences and provides model legislation to state legislators. Star Tribune, 20 July 2021 The conservative Fox News mentioned critical race theory 901 times on air in June, the liberal group Media Matters found, up from 537 times in May and 226 times in April. al, 18 July 2021 Sam Inglot, deputy director of Progress Michigan, a liberal group, said the conflicts in the GOP are self-inflicted and a product of the party's loyalty to Trump's false claims. Eugene Scott,, 14 July 2021 Differences in work experience are especially important on the circuit courts, where cases are heard and decisions made by panels of three judges, Chris Kang, chief counsel of the liberal judicial advocacy group Demand Justice, said. Melissa Quinn, CBS News, 23 June 2021 Brad Woodhouse, the executive director of the liberal group Protect Our Care and one of many Democrats who took a victory lap after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday. New York Times, 18 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Bishop didn't fit the GOP's attempts to paint her as some wild-eyed liberal. Editorial Board, Star Tribune, 8 July 2021 That those companies tend to lean liberal is, of course, only a coincidence. Paul Gessing, National Review, 25 Dec. 2020 Besides, there are questions about the founding that would stump an unimaginative liberal. Paul O. Carrese, National Review, 9 June 2021 Richard Nixon, a conservative by the standards of his time, pushed for a universal basic income; Barack Obama, a liberal by the standards of his time, did not. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, 24 May 2021 Hodgkinson, an avid liberal, was shot dead by responding law enforcement. Jake Dima, Washington Examiner, 21 Apr. 2021 In recent weeks, these shifting coalitions have given rise to the notion that the 6-3 split is really a 3-3-3 split, with Roberts, Kavanaugh, and Barrett at the court’s center and the court’s liberal and conservatives revolving around them. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 30 June 2021 The bench, which for decades had been 5-4 conservative-liberal, currently operates with a 6-3 conservative advantage. Joan Biskupic, CNN, 29 June 2021 One chair is typically filled by a liberal to generate lively debate. Stephen Battaglio Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2021

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


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


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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Time Traveler for liberal

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

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Dictionary Entries Near liberal



liberal arts

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Last Updated

26 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Liberal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for liberal



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



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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on liberal

Nglish: Translation of liberal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of liberal for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about liberal


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