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

As many of these voters name him as pick the next five presidents combined: No doubt much of this reflects not only the liberal leanings of younger voters but also the gap in experience: Only the oldest millennials remember much from Reagan’s era. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Poll: Barack Obama Was the Greatest President of Our Lifetime," 11 July 2018 Republicans were stunned when Justice David Souter, who was pushed by then-White House chief of staff John Sununu and nominated by President George H.W. Bush, took much more liberal views than had been expected. Christopher Keating, courant.com, "What Would Overturning Roe V. Wade Mean For Abortion Access In Connecticut?," 11 July 2018 De León’s whole argument for his longshot campaign against Feinstein has been that the former San Francisco mayor is just too moderate and Republican-friendly to represent California’s liberal leanings. John Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bad news comes in bunches for Kevin de León: Key lawmaker backs Feinstein," 12 June 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

With Trump no favorite among liberals, Maddow’s audience is likely to be smaller: Fox drew nearly five times as many viewers as MSNBC for Gorsuch’s nomination, the Nielsen company said. David Bauder, The Seattle Times, "Networks covering Supreme Court pick move to battle stations," 9 July 2018 But the best thing Barrett has going for her in Trump’s eyes might be how worried liberals are about her. Dara Lind, Vox, "Trump’s reported Supreme Court finalists: Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, and Raymond Kethledge," 5 July 2018 That feels a little like the moment liberals are in right now, what with all these hot politicians stepping onto the global stage out of nowhere, some of whom may very well be nationalist hellions. Kenzie Bryant, Vanities, "Is the Hot Politician Evil?: A Parlor Game for Our Broken Era," 1 June 2018 Many voters here define themselves as culturally Republican and argue the liberals in urban, coastal California are elitists out of touch with rural lifestyles. Moni Basu, CNN, "Blue state, red valley: In this part of California, a new generation is more woke than ever," 1 June 2018 Turns out liberals aren’t above calling out conservatives' supposed lack of education, a classist jab that doesn’t do much to bridge the divide. refinery29.com, "This Is Why Tan France Refused To Shoot Queer Eye," 8 May 2018 This is because liberals are, rightfully, pissed off! Drew Magary, GQ, "The Democrats Can't Stop Using the Same Broken Playbook," 8 Mar. 2018 Those working in right-wing media also ranted about their belief that liberals aren’t able to tell the difference between those who wear MAGA hats and Never Trump-ers. Amanda Arnold, The Cut, "Young Conservatives Sad No One in D.C. Wants to Date Them," 5 Mar. 2018 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

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

5 Nov 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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