• synonyms


[ih-lib-er-uhl, ih-lib-ruhl]
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  1. narrowminded; bigoted.
  2. Archaic.
    1. not generous in giving; miserly; niggardly; stingy.
    2. Chiefly Literary.without culture or refinement; unscholarly; vulgar.
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Origin of illiberal

From the Latin word illīberālis, dating back to 1525–35. See il-2, liberal
Related formsil·lib·er·al·i·ty, il·lib·er·al·ness, il·lib·er·al·ism, nounil·lib·er·al·ly, adverb


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for illiberality

Historical Examples

  • Forgive me, if you can, for a touch of illiberality about your paper.

    More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II

    Charles Darwin

  • He readily obtained sympathy, and many persons were disgusted at Sir Charles's illiberality in not making him some compensation.

  • Where men resolve to be ungrateful, it is natural that they should be illiberal; and illiberality often hardens into malignity.

  • The first view has in it the liberal principle; in the second, illiberality is concealed.

  • Its illiberality and untruth render it very unfit for a "Family Library," for which it was composed.

British Dictionary definitions for illiberality


  1. narrow-minded; prejudiced; bigoted; intolerant
  2. not generous; mean
  3. lacking in culture or refinement
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Derived Formsilliberality, illiberalness or illiberalism, nounilliberally, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for illiberality



1530s, "ungentlemanly, base, mean," from Middle French illiberal (14c.), from Latin illiberalis "ungenerous, mean, sordid; unworthy of a freeman," from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + liberalis (see liberal). A sense of "narrow-minded politically; unconcerned with the rights or liberties of others" is attested from 1640s, and might conceivably be revived to take up some of the burden that drags down conservative.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper