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

States across the country have re-evaluated their relationships to standardized exams in recent years, as a backlash to these tests has swelled in both liberal and conservative cities and towns. Eliza Shapiro, New York Times, "City School Test Scores Inch Up, but Less Than Half of Students Pass," 22 Aug. 2019 Faggioli contends that Pell’s conviction has caused a divide between the conservative and liberal sides in the Church, and by not interfering the Vatican is remaining neutral. Gina Martinez, Time, "Catholic Priest Abuse Survivors' Group Says It's 'Cowardly' That Convicted Cardinal Has Not Been Defrocked," 21 Aug. 2019 In liberal and conservative towns alike, schools and libraries have declined visits from Petro-Roy (who identifies as straight). David Canfield,, "LGBTQ books are being censored in middle schools. Authors are speaking out.," 19 Aug. 2019 The same also held true for ticket buyers who identified themselves as liberal and conservative (10.1 percent vs. 5 percent). Pamela Mcclintock, The Hollywood Reporter, "Box Office: Democrats Go to More Movies Than Republicans," 15 Aug. 2019 The escalation of these conflicts will bring great costs, including the loss of India’s carefully managed reputation as a liberal democracy and a responsible nuclear power. Johann Chacko, Quartz India, "With Kashmir move, India risks losing the upper hand of a responsible, nuclear-armed democracy," 6 Aug. 2019 Marianne Williamson, 67, grew up in a liberal, middle-class Jewish household in Houston, Texas. Jenni Avins, Quartzy, "Marianne Williamson is campaigning with the language of self-help and spirituality," 30 July 2019 Policy distinction between the liberal and moderate wings of the party, a focus of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Anchorage Daily News, "Rivals attack Biden, with Harris leading way on race issues," 28 June 2019 He's said to have been in line to work for liberal icon and then-Democratic House leader Tip O'Neill until the NRA came calling in 1977. CBS News, "Scandal-ridden NRA head Wayne LaPierre digs in against gun control," 9 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Linda's brother Walt (Michael Shannon) manages his father's publishing empire, though not with an entirely free hand, while his teenage son Jacob (Jaeden Martell) keeps busy trolling liberals on social media. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Knives Out': Film Review | TIFF 2019," 8 Sep. 2019 The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has backed high-profile anti-establishment liberals like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, is fundraising for Romanoff and has been critical of Hickenlooper. Justin Wingerter, The Denver Post, "The Democratic race to be the anti-Hickenlooper within Colorado’s race for Senate," 5 Sep. 2019 But Justice Elena Kagan decried the ruling on behalf of the court's four liberals. Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY, "'Fair maps': Barack Obama launches new initiative to help take on partisan gerrymandering," 26 Aug. 2019 So, of course, this is a political no-brainer for Democrats chasing the votes of reliable liberals without paying too steep a price among moderates. Philip Elliott, Time, "2020 Hopefuls Are Talking Transgender Rights, Signaling a Political Shift on the Issue," 21 Aug. 2019 But does the Democratic base — a diverse coalition of affluent liberals and more working-class voters — see it the same way? Kabir Khanna, CBS News, "Analysis: How financially concerned and comfortable Democrats differ on economy and 2020 candidates," 25 July 2019 So the work of preservation and renewal, the work of conservative liberals, is never-ending. Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, "The Right Liberalism," 11 July 2019 Seems pretty even spilt between hardcore progressives and old-school liberals. Jon Caldara, The Denver Post, "Caldara: Let’s take a deeper look behind Hickenlooper’s poll numbers," 23 Aug. 2019 The Greens and Liberal Democrats, the latter of whom came top in the recent European elections in London, are better placed to woo liberals fed up with Mr Khan. The Economist, "London’s mayoral race shows Tory disregard for the capital," 22 Aug. 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

27 Aug 2019

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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

What made you want to look up liberal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


recurring in steady succession

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