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

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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



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Examples of liberalism in a Sentence

liberalism had always claimed to stand for the greatest social good
Recent Examples on the Web Putzova's aggressive liberalism stands in contrast to O'Halleran's more-centrist record in two terms in Washington. Andrew Oxford, The Arizona Republic, "Primary elections lack drama, but not importance," 2 Aug. 2020 The New Deal was more clever and diverse than just tax-and-spend liberalism. David Brooks, Star Tribune, "What Joe Biden can learn from FDR," 31 July 2020 Underwritten by robust post-World War II economic growth, Pat’s gubernatorial terms marked a high-water moment for New Deal-style liberalism in California — the culmination of the New Deal era for politics nationally. Mark Brilliant, Washington Post, "The prescient politics and policies of Jerry Brown," 10 July 2020 The hallmarks of 20th century liberalism—in Mounk’s examples, the Brookings Institute and The New York Times—were either bogged down by decades of baggage or overrun by barbarians or both. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "The Problem With Yascha Mounk’s Persuasion," 8 July 2020 Current debates about liberalism—especially about whether a free society can thrive alongside ever more urgent calls for government action—bring to mind an episode from the Edwardian era. William Anthony Hay, WSJ, "‘Haldane’ Review: Political Man, Pivotal Moment," 8 July 2020 Putin has made clear his disdain for liberal democracy, telling the Financial Times in an interview last year that liberalism was obsolete and was being rejected by millions of people. Robyn Dixon, Washington Post, "Renowned Russian director convicted of embezzlement in what critics call a show trial," 26 June 2020 But the theater soon became a threat to authorities increasingly intolerant of dissent, activism and liberalism. Robyn Dixon, Washington Post, "Renowned Russian director convicted of embezzlement in what critics call a show trial," 26 June 2020 Social liberalism is a bipartisan position in the British Parliament. Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, "The Conservative Case for Liberalizing Divorce," 26 June 2020

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.

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First Known Use of liberalism

1816, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for liberalism

see liberal entry 1

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Time Traveler for liberalism

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The first known use of liberalism was in 1816

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Last Updated

8 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Liberalism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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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

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