lib·​er·​al·​ism | \ ˈli-b(ə-)rə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce liberalism (audio) \

Definition of liberalism

1 : the quality or state of being liberal
2a often capitalized : a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity
b : a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard (see gold standard sense 1)
c : a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy (see autonomy sense 2) of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (such as those involving race, gender, or class)
d capitalized : the principles and policies of a Liberal (see liberal entry 1 sense 6b) party

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from liberalism

liberalist \ ˈli-​b(ə-​)rə-​list How to pronounce liberalism (audio) \ noun or adjective
liberalistic \ ˌli-​b(ə-​)rə-​ˈli-​stik How to pronounce liberalism (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for liberalism



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of liberalism in a Sentence

liberalism had always claimed to stand for the greatest social good
Recent Examples on the Web The rise of cultural liberalism is not simply a product of rising college attendance. New York Times, 8 Sep. 2021 Portland has grown a reputation for its liberalism, and as the Oregon’s largest city often seen clashes between far-left and far-right groups, other violent crime has been on the rise. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, 5 Sep. 2021 Republicans often railed against him for his unabashed liberalism. Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal, 19 July 2021 This book is an expression of the old liberalism, supplanted by leftism and other flavors of illiberalism. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 31 Aug. 2020 The inadequacies of this kind of liberalism interest Maxwell, and so do its graces. New York Times, 30 Aug. 2021 The rise in social liberalism has been driven by Democrats who are identifying more as socially liberal than conservative, Gallup notes, along with college graduates increasingly identifying as socially liberal. Alison Durkee, Forbes, 24 June 2021 But to me, at least, a little of his imagine-all-the-people ’70s liberalism goes a long way. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 14 Aug. 2021 Traversing the 2017 Women’s March, the covid-19 lockdown, and last year’s racial-justice protests, these essays explore how liberalism’s veneration of the middle ground plays out in art and politics. The New Yorker, 9 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'liberalism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of liberalism

1816, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for liberalism

see liberal entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About liberalism

Time Traveler for liberalism

Time Traveler

The first known use of liberalism was in 1816

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near liberalism




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for liberalism

Last Updated

14 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Liberalism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for liberalism



English Language Learners Definition of liberalism

: belief in the value of social and political change in order to achieve progress

More from Merriam-Webster on liberalism

Nglish: Translation of liberalism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of liberalism for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about liberalism


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!