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 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 The people running the country’s institutions—mayors, cultural leaders, media executives, business managers—are a generation older and cut from the cloth of traditional American liberalism. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "Smiley Face Liberalism," 24 June 2020 Having raided the armory of classical liberalism for rhetorical weapons, Barr now stands ready to impose his worldview upon the nation. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Bill Barr’s Invisible Crusade," 8 June 2020 The late 1960s were the heyday of modern American liberalism, which was then an ideology of hope. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "America’s New Nihilism," 3 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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Statistics for liberalism

Last Updated

15 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Liberalism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jul. 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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