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 liberally (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 Many families see such data as crucial for a successful match, but more liberal Indians view some criteria -- particularly caste and complexion -- as discriminatory. Manveena Suri, CNN, "India's attitude to arranged marriage is changing. But some say not fast enough," 18 Nov. 2020 Her political views became more liberal while living on the West Coast and for a year in France, where her husband is from. John Eligon, New York Times, "How a Minneapolis Suburb Turned Blue, Despite Trump’s Law-and-Order Pitch," 16 Nov. 2020 With a more liberal platform, Marie Newman ended a political dynasty in Illinois' 3rd Congressional District, a collection of southwest suburbs and Chicago’s Southwest Side, in the Democratic primary. Lisa Donovan,, "The Spin: In interview, Duckworth says she’d consider a Biden Cabinet spot if offered | Lightfoot on COVID-19 orders and mixed messages | Illinois at ‘crisis level’ with virus, Pritzker says," 13 Nov. 2020 But like the rest of Orange County — whose entire congressional delegation turned blue in 2018 — Little Saigon has become more liberal over the past decade, albeit more slowly. NBC News, "Nguyen vs. Nguyen race in Calif. highlights rise of Vietnamese American electorate," 12 Nov. 2020 Wills, who is thirty-eight, shared Ferrera’s opposition to Trump’s divisiveness and was keen to help Democrats make inroads with the state’s young Cuban voters, who were seen as being more liberal than their parents. Stephania Taladrid, The New Yorker, "As Trump Gained Latino Support in Florida, Biden’s Campaign Ignored Warnings," 10 Nov. 2020 At the same time, Biden could face pressure from the Democratic Party’s left wing to pick a more liberal figure, someone who could push for aggressive financial overhauls and prove more adversarial to supporters of free trade. Rachel Siegel, Washington Post, "With pick for treasury secretary, Biden will tip hand about his economic agenda," 9 Nov. 2020 Tew argued the Indiana Democratic Party's message to voters who aren't on board with the some of the more liberal members of the party needs to improve. Kaitlin Lange, The Indianapolis Star, "Democrats were hopeful Hale could flip the 5th District. Here's why that didn't happen.," 8 Nov. 2020 Pence also attacked Biden on court packing and claimed the Democratic ticket wants to pack the courts with liberal activist judges. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Trump says in campaign call that Fauci is a "disaster"," 19 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Now, some people refer to me as being moderate, I’ve been called conservative and I’ve been called a flaming liberal. NBC News, "Meet the Press 11.08.20," 8 Nov. 2020 But the Democratic challengers were well-positioned as elections officials continued to count late-arriving ballots that traditionally skew liberal, raising the possibility that Democrats could hold a 33-7 majority in the Senate next session. Alexei Koseff,, "California Democrats could boost already overwhelming state Senate majority," 4 Nov. 2020 Jon Hoadley, a 37-year-old liberal, is pushing a Green New Deal-style climate change agenda as a wedge issue to defeat longtime Republican incumbent Rep. Fred Upton in a purple district of southwest Michigan. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy: The energy and climate stakes of the election," 3 Nov. 2020 The strongest unaffiliated candidate is running as a staunch liberal encouraging her supporters to choose Gideon second. Author: Paul Kane, Seung Min Kim, Anchorage Daily News, "GOP senators race to retain the majority," 31 Oct. 2020 Responding to a 2018 Gallup poll, 39 percent of North Carolinians identified as conservative, while 33 percent answered moderate, and 21 percent went with liberal. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "The Legend of Roy Cooper," 26 Oct. 2020 The prospect of a Republican replacing the Court’s leading liberal will alarm them as much as the prospect of Clinton choosing Scalia’s replacement. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Replacing Justice Ginsburg: Politics, Not Precedent," 19 Sep. 2020 In the past, a certain class of L.A. liberal might donate to half a dozen House candidates across the country but not be able to name their own City Council person. Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Essential California: The common threads in three L.A. races," 5 Nov. 2020 Democrats still managed to win in Colorado, a rare liberal-leaning state occupied by a Republican, and Arizona, where Mark Kelly, a former astronaut, beat Senator Martha McSally, handing her a second Senate defeat in two years. Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, "Republicans Tighten Hold on Senate, but Control Could Be Decided in Runoffs," 4 Nov. 2020

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for liberal

Last Updated

22 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Liberal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for liberal


How to pronounce liberal (audio)

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


How to pronounce liberal (audio)

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

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