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 liberalist (audio) \ noun or adjective
liberalistic \ ˌli-​b(ə-​)rə-​ˈli-​stik How to pronounce liberalistic (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 Motherless Brooklyn invites the same derision, as the latest proof that liberal Hollywood just can’t help flaunting its liberalism and defeating itself. Armond White, National Review, "Motherless Brooklyn’s Retro Liberalism," 13 Nov. 2019 There was her instinctive and outspoken liberalism, especially as regards race, which set her sharply apart from her peers. New York Times, "A New Biography of Janis Joplin Captures the Pain and Soul of an Adventurous Life," 25 Oct. 2019 Handsome and charismatic, Trudeau reasserted liberalism in 2015 after almost 10 years of Conservative Party government in Canada, but a series of scandals combined with high expectations have damaged his prospects. Rob Gillies, Anchorage Daily News, "Liberal icon Trudeau fights to stay in power as Canada votes," 22 Oct. 2019 While the former governor enters the Democratic primary as the favorite, the other 10 candidates have an opportunity to contrast their liberalism with Hickenlooper’s centrism, or their anti-establishment approach to his establishment support. Justin Wingerter, The Denver Post, "The Democratic race to be the anti-Hickenlooper within Colorado’s race for Senate," 5 Sep. 2019 The contention that gluten sensitivity goes along with liberalism takes the debate even further. Trey Malone, The Conversation, "Gluten-sensitive liberals? Investigating the stereotype suggests food fads unite us all," 22 Nov. 2019 But today, with the value of the peso plummeting, inflation soaring and several million Argentines falling into poverty in a single year, many inside the country say Macri’s experiment with economic liberalism has failed. Ciara Nugent, Time, "As Argentina Goes to the Polls, Voters Are Falling Back in Love With a Divisive Political Movement," 25 Oct. 2019 Morey getting run out of town for accidentally having a political opinion, especially one so in-line with mainstream liberalism, would be decidedly off-brand. Nathaniel Friedman, The New Republic, "In Its Fight With China, the NBA Shows Its True Colors," 11 Oct. 2019 Her tenure has been marked by a feeble attempt at economic corporatism coupled with a bland social liberalism. Joseph C. Sternberg, WSJ, "How an Accident Could Happen in Britain," 27 Sep. 2018

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

Statistics for liberalism

Last Updated

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Liberalism.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for liberalism


How to pronounce liberalism (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of liberalism

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on liberalism

What made you want to look up liberalism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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