lib·​er·​al | \ ˈli-b(ə-)rəl How to pronounce liberal (audio) \

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


lib·​er·​al | \ ˈli-b(ə-)rəl How to pronounce liberal (audio) \

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


liberally \ ˈli-​b(ə-​)rə-​lē How to pronounce liberally (audio) \ adverb
liberalness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for liberal


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


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.


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

But large Perception Gaps are also associated with liberal sources such as Huffington Post and the Daily Kos. Brian Stelter, CNN, "Seven days and seven examples of the alliance between Trump and Murdoch," 25 June 2019 To stay put in State House, Museveni has had to run roughshod over important constitutional and institutional safe guards, checks and balances that were enshrined in what was a relatively progressive and liberal constitution. Moses Khisa, Quartz Africa, "President Museveni has twisted Uganda’s constitution to cling to power," 21 June 2019 Known nationally as a leader in liberal legal thought, Abrahamson is part of a minority on a court that is deeply divided ideologically. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg, justices and governors pay tribute to Shirley Abrahamson," 18 June 2019 Garlicky oil and a liberal amount of salt infuse the zucchini (or yellow summer squash) with flavor, while pasta water and grated parm finish it off. Adam Rapoport, Bon Appétit, "Zucchini Doesn’t Have to Be Watery and Sad," 18 June 2019 This is for the liberal that keeps calling our president Bone Spurs. Chicago Tribune, Lake County News-Sun, "Talk of the County: Hearing FDR's words coming out of Trump's 'vulgar and crass mouth' cut like a knife," 10 June 2019 Most exciting though is how the gameplay and liberal use of force abilities harken back to earlier third-person Star Wars games. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, "Is 'Fallen Order' the 'Star Wars' Game Fans Have Been Looking For?," 8 June 2019 First Look Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Clarence Thomas, a liberal icon and a conservative bastion, have balanced political disagreement with a genuine mutual regard. Christian Science Monitor, "USA | Justice," 7 June 2019 The New Deal and civil-rights era were rare explosions of liberal progress, in special circumstances, which his election alone did not augur. The Economist, "The idea of reparations for slavery is a morally appealing but flawed," 29 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberals to order the Census Bureau to reconsider the matter, a process that may go past the deadlines next week required to print the questionnaires on time. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Supreme Court Seems Oddly Ambivalent About Being Lied To," 27 June 2019 Who will hate this candidate: White rural voters who don’t want to focus on race and inequality, liberals concerned about his Wall Street and Silicon Valley enthusiasts. Quartz Staff, Quartz, "Meet all the Democratic candidates in the crowded 2020 race," 24 June 2019 Helms, for his part, was long a bête noire of liberals; Biden bragged of his friendship with Helms and his wife. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, "Joe Biden’s Segregationist Problem," 19 June 2019 While the rest of the country may caricature California as a bastion of out-of-touch liberals, the Central Valley defies that stereotype. Melanie Mason,, "California’s long-overlooked Central Valley holds new allure for 2020 candidates," 4 June 2019 The plight of Asian American applicants resonates beyond the traditional opponents of affirmative action and draws the sympathies of liberals concerned about implicit racial bias. Yuvraj Joshi, Teen Vogue, "Why the Affirmative Action Case Against Harvard Isn’t Actually About Fair Treatment for Minority Students," 16 Oct. 2018 Barack Obama resisted calls from liberals to launch a widespread investigation into the George W. Bush administration’s post-Sept. Elana Schor,, "Lock him up? Democrats weigh what to do about Trump’s deeds after he leaves office," 13 June 2019 The survey found just three issues are viewed as morally acceptable by a majority of conservatives but less than half of liberals: the death penalty, buying and wearing clothes made of animal fur, and medical testing on animals. Marie Patino, Fortune, "Abortion Divides Americans More Than Any Other Issue," 5 June 2019 Fresno visit Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a breakout star in the presidential race, but his support emanates largely from coastal white liberals. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: BART fare increase may not be a done deal," 4 June 2019

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


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


1814, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for liberal

Adjective and Noun

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

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Statistics for liberal

Last Updated

2 Jul 2019

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



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
British : 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



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


lib·​er·​al | \ ˈli-bə-rəl How to pronounce liberal (audio) , 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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