liberal

1 of 2

adjective

lib·​er·​al ˈli-b(ə-)rəl How to pronounce liberal (audio)
1
a
: of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts
liberal education
b
archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth
2
a
: 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
6
a
: 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
liberally adverb
liberalness noun

liberal

2 of 2

noun

lib·​er·​al ˈli-b(ə-)rəl How to pronounce liberal (audio)
: 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
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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
In 1967 Ramparts magazine revealed that the CIA had covertly sponsored the National Student Association to try to influence the emerging international student movement in a liberal and anticommunist direction. Kathryn Olmsted, Scientific American, 6 Feb. 2024 We are committed to opposing all forms of exclusion and discrimination and consistently stand up for the values of an open-minded and liberal democracy. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Feb. 2024 Moms for Liberty is still trying to grow in liberal states. CNN, 3 Feb. 2024 One of the 200-or-so guests, Francesca Federico, co-founder and president of Twelve Points Wealth Management in Boston, repeated the socially liberal/fiscally conservative line. Michael Smith, Fortune, 3 Feb. 2024 He has been endorsed by the liberal political action committee VoteVets and the bipartisan recruiting organization New Politics, which helps former members of the military and national service organizations run for office. Laura J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times, 1 Feb. 2024 The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank and advocacy group, projected that about 16 million children in low-income families would benefit from the child tax credit expansion. Kevin Freking and Fatima Hussein The Associated Press, arkansasonline.com, 28 Jan. 2024 This is partially what led Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to begin sending migrants on buses to Chicago nearly 17 months ago — to make a statement about promises by liberal cities and states to welcome asylum-seekers. Nell Salzman, Chicago Tribune, 28 Jan. 2024 The court’s three liberal justices — Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — noted their dissent in the court’s order, which did not explain the majority’s reasoning. Ann E. Marimow, Washington Post, 26 Jan. 2024
Noun
Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, also expressed some uncertainty about whether states' varying interpretations of the law should be allowed to sway a national election. Kyler Alvord, Peoplemag, 8 Feb. 2024 For their part, some Senate liberals also voiced opposition to some components of the deal. Daniel Desrochers, Kansas City Star, 7 Feb. 2024 El Salvador is the site of a startling — and, to many liberals, disturbing — political project. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 6 Feb. 2024 In fact, the Zionist pioneers, the precursors of Israel’s liberals, were secular modernizers who were appalled by the rabbinic strictures that alienated Jews in Eastern European cities. Bernard Avishai, The New Yorker, 2 Feb. 2024 Mario Cuomo was a favorite of liberals in the 1988 and 1992 presidential cycles after his impassioned keynote address at the 1984 Democratic convention. Dan McLaughlin, National Review, 14 Jan. 2024 Support for that comes mainly from the left, with just under 1 in 5 of the state’s liberals backing it. David Lauter, Los Angeles Times, 12 Jan. 2024 This is a problem in the eyes of a certain sort of secular liberal. Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner, 12 Jan. 2024 Ideological preferences differentiate as well, with three-quarters of conservatives supporting the Biden inquiry while 92% of liberals back the Trump charges. Gary Langer, ABC News, 12 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'liberal.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Adjective

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

Noun

1814, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near liberal

Cite this Entry

“Liberal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberal. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

liberal

1 of 2 adjective
lib·​er·​al ˈlib(-ə)-rəl How to pronounce liberal (audio)
1
: of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts
a liberal education
2
a
: not stingy : generous
a liberal giver
b
: more than enough
a liberal allowance
3
: not strict
especially : not bound by traditional forms or beliefs
4
: of or relating to liberalism : not conservative
liberally adverb

liberal

2 of 2 noun
: a person who is liberal especially in politics

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