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

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective When 50 get to Martha's Vineyard, the liberal media goes into a five-alarm fire. Fox News Staff, Fox News, 16 Sep. 2022 Each show is a costume-pageant version of the same decadent urban dramas that HBO peddled in The Wire and The Sopranos — guilty-pleasure nightmares of depravity favored by liberal media. Armond White, National Review, 24 Aug. 2022 Pastors are either known as conservative or liberal, with no middle ground. John Blake, CNN, 21 Aug. 2022 More often than not, this guru gives them a convenient scapegoat for their problems, telling them that the issue isn’t their lack of looks or money or empathy or talent or charisma, but women and/or minority groups and/or the liberal media. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 17 Aug. 2022 Lawmakers and voters in 10 states—both conservative and liberal—have agreed, passing similar laws. WSJ, 16 Aug. 2022 These items generally do not come with a manufacturer’s warranty, but all are backed by Amazon’s liberal return policy. Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY, 13 Aug. 2022 President Biden frequently notes that 55 profitable corporations paid no federal income tax in 2020, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a liberal think tank. Kevin Schaul, Washington Post, 11 Aug. 2022 The fallout from the crypto crash follows the pattern of other financial downturns, said Todd Phillips, the director of financial regulation and corporate governance at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. New York Times, 29 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That put her on the liberal — and losing — side of a political and cultural war that has raged ever since. Patrick Smith, NBC News, 5 Sep. 2022 Famous for the liberal, laid back yet active approach to life of its multinational citizens, Vancouver is Canada’s dine-out capital, squeezing the best foods of the world into its surprisingly compact urban sprawl. Duncan Madden, Forbes, 4 Aug. 2022 William Brennan, the great liberal who dominated the heyday of Warren Court in the 1960s, used to quiz his law clerks about the most important rule at the Supreme Court. Jeffrey Toobin, CNN, 24 June 2022 The extreme liberal left will use this to tragedy to further violate our rights and attempt a gun ban. Anchorage Daily News, 29 May 2022 The Democratic establishment candidate is Cohen, 44, a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the most outspoken liberal of the group. Los Angeles Times, 23 May 2022 For example, the season’s second episode riffs on the typical American liberal’s idealization of European life. Judy Berman, Time, 23 Mar. 2022 Biden is expected to formally announced Breyer's retirement plans on Thursday, but the rumor mill is already churning as to who will replace the 83-year-old moderate liberal. Fortune, 27 Jan. 2022 But Breyer is also viewed as a less doctrinaire liberal than Associate Justices Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor – more willing to side with the court's conservatives in certain law enforcement cases, for instance. John Fritze, USA TODAY, 26 Jan. 2022 See More

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.

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

24 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Liberal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for liberal


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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