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

Other Words from liberal


liberally \ ˈli-​b(ə-​)rə-​lē How to pronounce liberal (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

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. He made a very liberal donation to the museum. Noun a policy that is supported both by liberals and conservatives in Congress See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Conservatives and liberal justices have found that some deeply offensive speech is protected. Michael Tarm, Hartford Courant, 2 Aug. 2022 The three liberal justices appointed by Democrats dissented each time. David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times, 2 Aug. 2022 Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the majority to uphold the Mississippi law but joined the liberal justices in voting to not overturn Roe. Mary Kekatos, ABC News, 24 July 2022 Just look back to December 2020 after Hagedorn joined three liberal justices in refusing to throw out more than 220,000 ballots cast in Milwaukee and Dane counties. Daniel Bice, Journal Sentinel, 23 July 2022 The chief justice received some criticism from his conservative colleagues for that part of the ruling, which was reached with the help of the four liberal justices at the time. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 21 July 2022 But the court’s liberal justices also see a threat. Shelia Poole, ajc, 14 July 2022 The dissenting three liberal justices were Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky. Scott Bauer, Anchorage Daily News, 8 July 2022 The liberal justices, though, wrote repeatedly that the court's aggressiveness in this epic term was doing damage to the institution. Mark Sherman,, 2 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Wickremesinghe is seen as an economic liberal and enjoys good relations with key lenders to his country, including India and China. Hafeel Farisz,, 20 July 2022 But as a card-carrying liberal, nothing quite gets my juices flowing like Tory-on-Tory infighting. Raven Smith, Vogue, 9 June 2022 Jared Polis is often portrayed as a rational liberal whom the Democratic Party would be wise to emulate. David Harsanyi, National Review, 5 Apr. 2022 School districts in liberal-leaning California have generally welcomed the books, according to Feldman. Kristen Taketa, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 July 2022 Becton’s victory, along with strong election day showings by liberal-leaning prosecutors such as state Atty. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 30 June 2022 But the federal guidance came after governors of several liberal-leaning states moved ahead on their own with lifting restrictions. Ben Gittleson, ABC News, 1 Mar. 2022 Lawmakers in 12 states have already introduced or pre-filed 96 bills that would make changes to voting laws for the 2022 session, according to an analysis from the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school. Kelly Mena, CNN, 9 Feb. 2022 The memo arrived the same day Troupis filed paperwork on behalf of the Trump campaign to begin ballot recounts in the liberal-leaning and populous Dane and Milwaukee counties. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for liberal

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near liberal



liberal arts

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Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Liberal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for liberal


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

More from Merriam-Webster on liberal

Nglish: Translation of liberal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of liberal for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about liberal


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