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

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 Kennedy, a conservative, has joined with liberal justices in decisions upholding the principles of Roe. Liz Goodwin, BostonGlobe.com, "Susan Collins is no maverick with GOP judicial nominees," 10 July 2018 Of the court’s liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 and Stephen Breyer turns 80 next month, so Trump may well get another opportunity to cement conservative dominance of the court for years to come. Anchorage Daily News, "Trump picks Kavanaugh for Supreme Court," 10 July 2018 The departure of Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer, liberal justices respectively aged 85 and 79, could give Mr Trump an opportunity to move the Court to a 6-3 conservative majority. The Economist, "A court with a solid conservative majority could reshape American life," 5 July 2018 Only on one occasion did Roberts join with the liberal justices in a 5-4 decision, a ruling that said police generally must have warrants to get telecommunications companies' records showing where people have used their cellphones. CBS News, "Chief Justice Roberts, the new man in the middle?," 30 June 2018 If Trump replaces Kennedy — who sometimes sided with the court’s liberal justices and swung major decisions their way — with a reliable conservative, the right could hold a solid majority for a generation to come. Jonathan Tamari, Philly.com, "With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, Trump's lasting power is amplified," 27 June 2018 If Claire represents a more liberal way of thinking from the future, Jamie is her alpha male foil from the past. Alexandra Macon, Vogue, "We Need to Talk About Outlander Season 4," 25 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 So Apple's best hope may be that the case breaks down along partisan lines, with the court's four liberals siding with the plaintiffs and the five conservatives siding with Apple. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "How Apple hopes to stop a customer lawsuit over its App Store monopoly," 27 Nov. 2018 The four conservatives argued that protections of U.S. wetlands should be limited while the four liberals called for more sweeping safeguards. Kurtis Alexander, SFChronicle.com, "Progress on environment could slow on Supreme Court without Kennedy," 29 June 2018 On Monday morning, social media was rife with liberals complaining that their representatives would endorse the notion that Trump officials should glide through life unmolested. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "Nancy Pelosi Rebukes Maxine Waters for Endorsing Harassment of Trump Officials," 25 June 2018 Maybe the New York liberals should reserve their booing for someone who deserves it. Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root, "Rudy Giuliani Being Booed During Yankees Game Was the Wrong Play: He’s Really a Spy for the Resistance," 29 May 2018 The revelation has infuriated liberals who admire Soros and consider criticism of him to be anti semitic. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Facebook drops PR firm after revelation of anti-Soros campaign," 15 Nov. 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

12 Mar 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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