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

Meanwhile, even as liberal analysts and activists lament some of Tuesday’s outcomes, not only the President, but groups like Susan B. Anthony List, which promotes antiabortion women candidates for public office, are claiming victory. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "This Is How Women Voted in the Midterms—and What It Means for Election 2020," 12 Nov. 2018 In first and second gear, the front wheel will rise into the air with liberal throttle application. Nick Goddard, Popular Mechanics, "Road Tested: 2019 Ducati Multistrada Enduro 1260," 24 Oct. 2018 One of those women friends from college, a self-described liberal and feminist sent me a text last night that said, quote, deep breaths. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Read the Full Transcript of Brett Kavanaugh's Opening Statement at Today's Hearing," 27 Sep. 2018 Once Karlie had confirmed the lovely news, Josh—liberal brother of Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump and senior advisor to the President—posted an Instagram of his new fiancée with a red heart emoji. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Karlie Kloss' Engagement Ring From Joshua Kushner Is Massive," 25 July 2018 And, in Peshawar on Tuesday, 21 people died in a Pakistan Taliban suicide bomb attack at a rally held by the liberal Awami National Party for Haroon Bilour, a candidate for the provincial legislature. Shaiq Hussain And Antonio Olivo, chicagotribune.com, "Pakistanis urge military to boost security after hundreds die in attacks before election," 14 July 2018 When the donations are to a group or PAC, CRP designated them as liberal or conservative based on their spending patterns. Rani Molla, Recode, "Silicon Valley’s Democrats aren’t galvanized by Trump any more than Republicans are — if you look at their donation history," 5 Nov. 2018 During the past two years, McCain became a beacon of light to those, both conservative and liberal, who opposed President Donald Trump. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "John McCain's Legacy of Reaching Across Party Lines Is Something We Should All Remember," 27 Aug. 2018 Primary update | The liberal wing of the Democratic Party just put the establishment on notice. Kathleen Hunter, Bloomberg.com, "Travel Ban Win Could Embolden Trump on Border," 27 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

One hopeful sign for Apple: the most skeptical questions tended to come from the court's liberals. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "How Apple hopes to stop a customer lawsuit over its App Store monopoly," 27 Nov. 2018 Stacey Abrams and her radical friends Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi want to force their extreme agenda on Georgia families and taxpayers...Radical liberals will turnout in record numbers. Jenny Hollander, Marie Claire, "Dear Georgia Republicans, Leave 'Friends' Alone," 23 Oct. 2018 Centrist Democrats trying to survive reelection in states Trump won, meanwhile, have said little about Kavanaugh, seeking to avoid the wrath of the president’s loyal supporters or a backlash from liberals bent on defeating Kavanaugh’s nomination. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: GOP candidates caught in a bind on Medicaid," 13 July 2018 Now that conservatives firmly control the court’s direction, their rulings may prompt a similar pushback from liberals in the years to come. William Cummings, USA TODAY, "It's the Constitution, not Brett Kavanaugh liberals don't like, conservatives say," 11 July 2018 Leaning Conservative Kavanaugh has come under criticism from liberals for a number of rulings. Daniela Altimari, courant.com, "Who Is Brett Kavanaugh? The Yale Grad Is Trump's Second Supreme Court Pick," 10 July 2018 Sinema was elected as a Democrat to the state legislature in 2004 and carved out a reputation as a liberal who could work with her conservative colleagues. Nicholas Riccardi, The Seattle Times, "Democrat Sinema wins Arizona Senate seat running as centrist," 13 Nov. 2018 Studies show that conservatives tend to be more fearful than liberals. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Benefits of Privilege: Being Rich and White Is Proof You Must Be Good," 5 Oct. 2018 Many of Kavanaugh’s other rulings will spark delight among conservatives and dismay among liberals. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "A Watershed Moment in American History," 10 July 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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Statistics for liberal

Last Updated

3 Dec 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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