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. 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 Republicans have derided the 1,800-page bill as a liberal wish list. Cassidy Morrison, Washington Examiner, "Murky prospects for further pandemic relief as economy suffers record hits to output and retail sales," 16 May 2020 This is at best ignorant-naïve liberal projection, and at worst, complete mythology. Zoé Samudzi, The New Republic, "White Witness and the Contemporary Lynching," 16 May 2020 Today, Europe is a beacon of liberal values and an exemplar of a gentler type of capitalism. The Economist, "On the blink The European Union is having a bad crisis," 14 May 2020 Congressional Republicans dismissed the package as a liberal wish list, with a key member calling the legislation dead on arrival. Mark Morales And Ray Sanchez, CNN, "NYC first responders push for line-of-duty benefits in fight against coronavirus," 13 May 2020 Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who are on the liberal end of the Supreme Court's ideological spectrum, had harsh questions for Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow on Tuesday. TheWeek, "Supreme Court arguments over Trump's tax returns point to ideological split decision," 12 May 2020 The union endorsed her 2015 mayoral opponent, Leticia Van de Putte, a liberal Democrat and former state senator. Bruce Selcraig,, "Ivy Taylor, former San Antonio mayor, heads to college president job," 12 May 2020 Channel catfish are usually dark in color, with a gray to nearly black hue, often with liberal black spotting along their flanks. Bob Mcnally, Field & Stream, "The Beginner’s Guide to Catching Your First Fish," 11 May 2020 The company currently caters to affluent, liberal Arab millennials like them. Sheila Marikar, 1843, "Arab millennials have a new favourite fashion brand," 7 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Meanwhile former favorite Armin Laschet, a relative liberal in the Merkel mold, has slipped into third place. David Meyer, Fortune, "Hasty lockdown lifts could slow economic recovery—just ask Dr. Fauci," 13 May 2020 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a tough and determined politician, a capable legislative leader, a political fundraiser of stupendous talent and a committed liberal who nonetheless knows when to moderate her stance for strategic purposes. Barton Swaim, WSJ, "‘Pelosi’ Review: The Speaker’s Amanuensis," 4 May 2020 Biden will need to make a choice between a traditional liberal such as Sewell or Klobuchar — what passes for a moderate Democrat these days — or an ambassador to the Sanders–AOC wing. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, "Why Joe Biden Might Choose Terri Sewell for Vice President," 23 Apr. 2020 The Supreme Court's 1999 patent ruling was decided by a close 5-4 vote, with the court's five conservatives extending federalism over the objections of the court's four liberals. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Supreme Court rules states are immune from copyright law," 24 Mar. 2020 Moon, a liberal who espouses greater reconciliation with North Korea, was behind a flurry of North Korea-U.S. diplomacy on the North’s nuclear program. San Diego Union-Tribune, "South Korea shows its US-made F-35 stealth jets for 1st time," 30 Sep. 2019 Several prominent liberals, including Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have criticized the company’s power and reach, including during their presidential campaigns. David Mccabe, New York Times, "Congress Calls on Jeff Bezos of Amazon to Testify," 1 May 2020 He's also overseen a parallel crackdown on liberals, women's rights activists, writers, moderate clerics and reformers. NBC News, "Saudi Arabia ends death penalty for minors and floggings," 27 Apr. 2020 Seventy-six percent of residents who identified as conservative viewed the virus as a real threat, compared with 91% among those who identify as liberals, according to the poll. Los Angeles Times, "Protesters fed up with coronavirus stay-home orders rally in downtown San Diego," 19 Apr. 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

20 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Liberal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 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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