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 Roberts and the court's four liberal justices were his silent partners. Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "Supreme Court's mix of liberal, conservative rulings shows influence of a powerful chief justice," 10 July 2020 The decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma was announced on Thursday, with conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch siding with the liberal justices and authoring the opinion. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "Supreme Court rules eastern half of Oklahoma is tribal land," 9 July 2020 The high court's ruling was 7-2, with two liberal justices joining the conservative majority for the schools. Jessica Gresko, The Christian Science Monitor, "Supreme Court: religious schools can discriminate when hiring," 8 July 2020 Two liberal justices who sided with the administration, Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Stephen Breyer, nonetheless suggested the legal fight over the Trump administration changes may not be over. Jessica Gresko, Anchorage Daily News, "Supreme Court says employers can opt out of Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate for religious , moral objections," 8 July 2020 Both decisions came by 7-2 votes, with only the court’s most liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, in dissent. Jess Bravin And Brent Kendall, WSJ, "Supreme Court Rulings Expand Exemptions for Religious Employers," 8 July 2020 Of the court’s liberal justices, Kagan is the most adept at reaching out to—and even swaying—her colleagues on the right. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Elena Kagan’s Fiery Defense of the Administrative State," 2 July 2020 The ruling was the third major case in a week in which Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the Court’s four liberal Justices and rejected a legal argument backed by President Trump and conservative Republicans. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "What John Roberts’s Surprise Abortion-Rights Ruling Means for the Future of Roe v. Wade," 29 June 2020 In the 5-4 ruling of June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, Chief Justice John Roberts once again casting a deciding vote by siding with the court's liberal justices. Fox News, "White House rips Supreme Court’s ‘unfortunate ruling’ on Louisiana abortion clinic restrictions," 29 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Charles Booker, a liberal, has the momentum against centrist Amy McGrath in their primary for the right to take on Republican incumbent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the ruby-red state this November. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Charles Booker could emerge as Democratic nominee to Mitch McConnell after last-minute primary surge," 23 June 2020 Finkelstein considered Dever a Bible literalist disguised as a liberal; Dever has never accepted Finkelstein’s low chronology. Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, "In Search of King David’s Lost Empire," 22 June 2020 Those mail-in ballots helped to carry the race for the liberal. Gloria Dickie, Scientific American, "Trump vs. Biden: How COVID-19 Will Affect Voting for President," 19 June 2020 Moon, a liberal who champions greater reconciliation with North Korea, shuttled between Pyongyang and Washington to help set up the first summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in June 2018. Anchorage Daily News, "North Korea blows up liaison office it operated with South Korea, sharply escalating tensions," 16 June 2020 Supporters believe 2020 represents their best chance yet to challenge Prop. 209, with opposition to President Trump expected to drive a motivated liberal electorate to the polls in November. Alexei Koseff,, "California bill asking voters whether to repeal anti-affirmative action Prop. 209 advances," 10 June 2020 The former vice president was not the only liberal who fumbled analysis of the report. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "Democrats in political jam with surprising jobs uptick," 5 June 2020 Arguably back then, despite passage of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, not enough time had passed for liberal... Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "America’s New Nihilism," 3 June 2020 The liberal amnesia over Bush (and his father) should not obscure how little the other former presidents might have to offer here. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "The Political Elites’ Pointless Calls for More Leadership," 1 June 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

13 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Liberal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 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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