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 For most of the twentieth century, a limit of that liberalism could be found at the edge of the Northside, where the historic Black community was relegated, owing to restrictive housing covenants and redlining. Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, 5 July 2021 Irate messengers confronted at least two high-profile leaders in the halls of the convention center, accusing them of fomenting liberalism. New York Times, 15 June 2021 Under president Shavkat Mirziyoyev market liberalism and political openness became the new orthodoxy, slowly but surely. Kenneth Rapoza, Forbes, 25 June 2021 Conservatives took up Lindsell's call and turned the fight over biblical inerrancy into a battle to save the denomination and American society from the evils of liberalism. Diana Butler Bass, CNN, 17 June 2021 Political designers say her logo’s vibe has come to convey insurgency, youth, diversity, liberalism — and winning. New York Times, 14 May 2021 Secular liberalism and movements for social justice were also seen as threatening. Eliza Griswold, The New Yorker, 9 May 2021 Voting maps show conservative bastions like Ladera Ranch, and coastal enclaves like San Clemente and Huntington Beach, are now islands surrounded by growing liberalism and racial diversity. Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2021 For the recent 65th anniversary of the magazine, NR’s editors invited distinguished scholars and writers, young and old alike, to discuss the classics of classical liberalism and conservatism. Daniel J. Mahoney, National Review, 28 Dec. 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.

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

28 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Liberalism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 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

formal : 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!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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