mul·​ti·​lat·​er·​al ˌməl-tē-ˈla-t(ə-)rəl How to pronounce multilateral (audio)
: having many sides
: involving or participated in by more than two nations or parties
multilateral agreements
multilateralism noun
multilateralist noun
multilaterally adverb

Did you know?

Since lateral means "side", multilateral means basically "many-sided". The philosophy of multilateralism claims that the best solutions generally result when as many of the world's nations as possible are involved in discussions, and multilateralists often favor strengthening the United Nations. Today multilateralism can be seen at work in, for example, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the International Criminal Court. But the U.S. doesn't always join the major multilateral organizations, instead often behaving as if a unilateral approach—that is, going it alone—was best for the interests of a powerful nation.

Examples of multilateral in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Established in 2002, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (or The Global Fund) has worked as an independent, multilateral financing entity over the past 20 years to raise resources and funding to fight AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria. Molly Peck, USA TODAY, 12 May 2024 In many multilateral settings today, non-Western states often opt to negotiate as a team rather than parley with the U.S. and its allies alone. Comfort Ero, Foreign Affairs, 1 Apr. 2024 However, nonprofit and multilateral leaders are working hard to secure the resources needed to address these barriers to poverty alleviation. Michael Sheldrick, Forbes, 30 Mar. 2024 However, that sovereignty does not extend to the occupied territories, where the multilateral force will operate. TIME, 6 Jan. 2024 America took Israel’s side in multilateral institutions such as the International Court of Justice. Matthew Continetti, National Review, 6 Apr. 2024 Progress will require multilateral negotiations to reform the global financial architecture—during which developing countries will likely continue to work as a bloc—and increased attention to each country or region’s specific economic and political circumstances. Comfort Ero, Foreign Affairs, 1 Apr. 2024 In January, several of these powers, including China, Iran, and Russia, even took part in a multilateral conference of their own hosted by the Taliban. Asfandyar Mir, Foreign Affairs, 14 Mar. 2024 The United States will need strong multilateral support for such an initiative—not only from countries in Southeast Asia but also from European countries, India, Japan, South Korea, and many others. Michael J. Mazarr, Foreign Affairs, 9 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'multilateral.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1606, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of multilateral was in 1606

Dictionary Entries Near multilateral

Cite this Entry

“Multilateral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


mul·​ti·​lat·​er·​al ˌməl-ti-ˈlat-ə-rəl How to pronounce multilateral (audio)
: having many sides
: involving or taken part in by more than two nations or groups
a multilateral treaty

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