liberal

adjective
lib·er·al | \ˈli-b(ə-)rəl \

Definition of liberal 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts liberal education

b archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth

2a : marked by generosity : openhanded a liberal giver

b : given or provided in a generous and openhanded way a liberal meal

c : ample, full

3 obsolete : lacking moral restraint : licentious

4 : not literal or strict : loose a liberal translation

5 : broad-minded especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms

6a : of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism

b capitalized : of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives

liberal

noun
lib·er·al | \ˈli-b(ə-)rəl \

Definition of liberal (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who is liberal: such as

a : one who is open-minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways

b capitalized : a member or supporter of a liberal political party (see liberal entry 1 sense 6)

c : an advocate or adherent of liberalism especially in individual rights

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Other Words from liberal

Adjective

liberally \ˈli-b(ə-)rə-lē \ adverb
liberalness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for liberal

Adjective

liberal, generous, bountiful, munificent mean giving or given freely and unstintingly. liberal suggests openhandedness in the giver and largeness in the thing or amount given. a teacher liberal with her praise generous stresses warmhearted readiness to give more than size or importance of the gift. a generous offer of help bountiful suggests lavish, unremitting giving or providing. children spoiled by bountiful presents munificent suggests a scale of giving appropriate to lords or princes. a munificent foundation grant

Examples of liberal in a Sentence

Adjective

On most issues he was thought of as a generally liberal figure, but on gun control he was live-free-or-die National Rifle Association man. — Jonathan Raban, Harper's, Aug. 1993 Many fishermen keep their holes from freezing over with liberal injections of antifreeze. Time, 28 Feb. 1974 Alexandra looked at him mournfully. "I try to be more liberal about such things than I used to be. I try to realize that we are not all made alike … " — Willa Cather, O Pioneers!, 1913 This cost him considerable, for Dick was rather fastidious about his cigars, and wouldn't smoke the cheapest. Besides, having a liberal nature, he was generally ready to treat his companions. — Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick, 1868 She is a liberal Democrat who married a conservative Republican. She has a liberal attitude toward sex. He made a very liberal donation to the museum.

Noun

a policy that is supported both by liberals and conservatives in Congress
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Humphrey was a liberal Democrat being heckled, in many cases, by liberals who hated his support for the Vietnam War. Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News, "America misses a political civility it never had," 29 June 2018 To be transgressive in the liberal West is to be alt-right. James Sullivan, BostonGlobe.com, "Frank Turner comes to town for six nights of not being a role model," 21 June 2018 These cuckoo conspiracy theories are symptomatic of a shift in global values from the optimism of the 1990s, when America’s liberal democracy was universally admired, to the current era of fear and anger, when democracy is in retreat. Trudy Rubin, Philly.com, "Roseanne's other twisted tweet of the week. (The one you didn't already read about) | Trudy Rubin," 1 June 2018 Is this seriously going to be the new liberal take? Fox News, "Nunes tightens screws in his probe into surveillance abuses," 3 July 2018 That, says Gregg Gelzinis of the liberal Center for American Progress, means that 25 of the 38 largest US banks will no longer have to maintain as much capital on hand as a cushion against hard times. Mark Trumbull, The Christian Science Monitor, "Post-crisis banking rules: now altered but not undone," 30 June 2018 Putin wants to weaken U.S. power in the world and undermine the liberal world order, including institutions like NATO and the European Union. Joshua Tucker, Washington Post, "Will it be ‘happy talk’ — or will Trump and Putin focus on arms control and other critical issues?," 13 July 2018 Britain and America share common values that have formed the basis for the liberal, democratic world order. David Lammy, Time, "I'm a British Lawmaker. Here's Why I’m Protesting Trump’s Visit to the U.K.," 10 July 2018 Washington Is the Trump administration out to wreck the liberal world order? Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "Pompeo on What Trump Wants," 25 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

For liberals, who face an uphill battle to defeat the nomination, Kavanaugh at least has the benefit of being a juicy target. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "If Democrats want to fight Brett Kavanaugh, they have a lot of ammunition.," 10 July 2018 Among Republicans, moderates and liberals were more likely than conservatives to say Mueller’s investigation was important. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "The Anti-Trump Right Has Become Trump’s Base," 3 July 2018 The first disappointment for liberals came in Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the tiff over whether Jack Phillips, a Christian baker, had the right to refuse to bake a cake celebrating the nuptials of two men. The Economist, "Justice Kennedy is retiring. What happens now?," 30 June 2018 Republicans were also more likely to say that major technology companies as a whole support the views of liberals over conservatives, with 64% agreeing with that statement. Kevin Kelleher, Fortune, "72% of Americans Say Facebook and Twitter Actively Censor Political Views," 28 June 2018 Kennedy’s departure caps what was already one of the most difficult terms for liberals in recent memory, including defeats on issues such as public-sector unions, Trump’s travel ban and voting rights. David G. Savage, latimes.com, "Justice Anthony Kennedy to retire, giving Trump a chance to shift Supreme Court sharply right," 27 June 2018 These are incredibly anxious times for so many — for liberals and for conservatives. Piet Levy, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Review: At Milwaukee gig, Tim Allen shows why 'Last Man Standing' will be a hit once again," 23 June 2018 The Court split 5-4 along partisan lines, with the five conservative-leaning justices, in a majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, upholding the system and the four liberal-leaning justices opposing it. German Lopez, Vox, "With the Supreme Court’s ruling, other states plan to follow Ohio’s lead on voter purges.," 11 June 2018 By the mid-1990s the seminaries and state conventions were largely purged of moderates and liberals. Michelle Boorstein, The Seattle Times, "Thousands of conservative women behind the fall of Southern Baptists’ Paige Patterson," 10 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'liberal.' 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 liberal

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Noun

1814, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for liberal

Adjective

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin liberalis suitable for a freeman, generous, from liber free; perhaps akin to Old English lēodan to grow, Greek eleutheros free

Noun

see liberal entry 1

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Phrases Related to liberal

Liberal Democrat

Statistics for liberal

Last Updated

22 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for liberal

The first known use of liberal was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for liberal

liberal

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of liberal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: believing that government should be active in supporting social and political change : relating to or supporting political liberalism

Liberal : of or belonging to the liberal political party in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom

: not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted

liberal

noun

English Language Learners Definition of liberal (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who believes that government should be active in supporting social and political change : a person who is politically liberal

Liberal : a member or supporter of a liberal political party in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada

liberal

adjective
lib·er·al | \ˈli-bə-rəl, ˈli-brəl\

Kids Definition of liberal

1 : not stingy : generous She made a liberal donation.

2 : not strict That's a liberal interpretation of the rule.

3 : broad sense 4 I got a liberal education.

Other Words from liberal

liberally adverb

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Comments on liberal

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