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 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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Instead, conservative and liberal parties are likely to focus on a consensus agenda of improving the economy, health care and education. Washington Post, 2 June 2021 Brian Fallon, executive director of the liberal judicial group Demand Justice, said in a statement. Melissa Quinn, CBS News, 19 May 2021 On Friday, the liberal group End Citizens United released a report that tallied up more than $42 million that conservative groups have pledged to spend on election laws, including Heritage's $24 million budget. Nicholas Riccardi And Anthony Izaguirre, Chron, 15 May 2021 On Friday, the liberal group End Citizens United released a report that tallied up more than $42 million that conservative groups have pledged to spend on election laws, including Heritage's $24 million budget. Nicholas Riccardi And Anthony Izaguirre, Star Tribune, 14 May 2021 But in their final oral argument of the Supreme Court's term both conservative and liberal justices wrestled with squaring the broader goal of the legislation with the specific language lawmakers used. John Fritze, USA TODAY, 4 May 2021 DA Brian Middleton also signed the letter, which was sent out by the liberal advocacy group the Texas Organizing Project. Lauren Mcgaughy, Dallas News, 29 Apr. 2021 Republicans used the Senate hearing for President Biden’s first slate of judicial picks to criticize a liberal interest group backing the administration’s nominees., 28 Apr. 2021 Donlon does not have an ideological bent on air and presents conservative and liberal guests. Stephen Battaglio Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 28 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Atlanta Dream's fight with Loeffler wasn't a simple case of liberal-leaning athletes unhappy with a conservative owner. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, 17 May 2021 Screening tests have played a key role in reopening plans for schools in New York City and liberal-leaning states like California and Massachusetts., 16 May 2021 Even with the increase, the Mississippi welfare payments will still be only a fraction of the federal poverty level, according to the liberal-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Emily Wagster Pettus, Star Tribune, 30 Apr. 2021 The liberal-leaning Brookings Institution estimates that eliminating the SALT cap would give members of the top 0.1 percent an average tax cut of nearly $145,000. Brad Polumbo, National Review, 6 Apr. 2021 During Barack Obama's presidency, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg faced some pressure to step down so that Obama could name a younger liberal to sit on the court. Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN, 16 Apr. 2021 The lifelong Republican has described herself as an economic conservative and social liberal, and has also said she has been criticized for her GOP affiliation. al, 9 Apr. 2021 Owens and conservative super PACs sought to label McAdams as an out-of-touch liberal in Utah’s 4th Congressional District. Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Apr. 2021 The child of a grocer from southern Italy, Mario was the modest liberal who believed in the healing power of good government, who gave the Democratic Party an intellectual and emotional heft to counter Reaganism. Dan Zak, Washington Post, 17 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for liberal

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for liberal

Last Updated

8 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Liberal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

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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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