[ lib-er-uhl, lib-ruhl ]
/ ˈlɪb ər əl, ˈlɪb rəl /
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a person of liberal principles or views, especially in politics or religion.
(often initial capital letter) a member of a liberal party in politics, especially of the Liberal party in Great Britain.
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Origin of liberal

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English, from Old French, from Latin līberālis “of freedom, befitting the free, honorable,” equivalent to līber “free, open, frank” + -ālis -al1

synonym study for liberal

9. See generous. 10. See ample.


Other definitions for liberal (2 of 2)

[ lib-er-uhl, lib-ruhl ]
/ ˈlɪb ər əl, ˈlɪb rəl /

a city in SW Kansas.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does liberal mean?

Liberal means favorable to reform or progress, such as in religion or politics. Generally, a person is considered to be liberal if they support changes or reforms to something, as in The pastor was especially liberal and argued for changes to the ceremony to better fit with modern society. 

Progressive is a commonly used synonym for this sense of liberal, while conservative, meaning in favor of existing conditions or restoring older ones, an antonym.

Liberal also means of, related to, based on, or supporting liberalism, a philosophy that argues for maximum individual freedoms and liberties.

Somewhat related to this, liberal can mean open minded or tolerant, as in She had a liberal attitude toward foreign immigrants.

Liberal is also used to mean not strict or not literal, as in The judge practiced a liberal interpretation of the truancy laws, often not punishing students for skipping school. 

And liberal is used to describe generous giving, as in John was a liberal donor to his college. 

Finally, liberal can be a synonym for abundant or ample, as in He dumped a liberal amount of sprinkles on his ice cream. 

As a noun, liberal is used to refer to a person who has liberal views, especially on politics or religion. When capitalized, Liberal refers to a member of a liberal political party, such as the Liberal party of Great Britain.

Example: The prime minister faced intense criticism from the liberal members of the government, who demanded change to the traditional policies.  

Where does liberal come from?

The first records of liberal come from around 1350. It ultimately comes from the Latin līberālis, meaning “befitting the free, honorable.” The emphasis of freedom is a major point of liberalism.

What is considered liberal is often subjective. It depends heavily on the beliefs or attitudes of the person using the word, especially in relation to the society or organization they belong to.

For example, in the United States the word liberal is often used to refer to the Democratic Party and its beliefs, while the Republican Party is considered conservative. However, a person from the United Kingdom might consider both parties to be conservative, as neither one has historically argued for more liberal policies found in the UK, such as universal public healthcare.

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What are some other forms related to liberal?

  • liberally (adverb)
  • liberalness (noun)
  • antiliberal (adjective, noun)
  • antiliberally (adverb)

What are some synonyms for liberal?

What are some words that share a root or word element with liberal

What are some words that often get used in discussing liberal?

How is liberal used in real life?

Liberal is most often used to mean favorable to reform or progress, even when that is used as an insult.



Try using liberal!

Which of the following is a synonym of liberal?

A. nostalgic
B. conservative
C. progressive
D. unpredictable

How to use liberal in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for liberal (1 of 2)

/ (ˈlɪbərəl, ˈlɪbrəl) /

a person who has liberal ideas or opinions

Derived forms of liberal

liberally, adverbliberalness, noun

Word Origin for liberal

C14: from Latin līberālis of freedom, from līber free

British Dictionary definitions for liberal (2 of 2)

/ (ˈlɪbərəl, ˈlɪbrəl) /

a member or supporter of a Liberal Party or Liberal Democrat party
of or relating to a Liberal Party
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

Cultural definitions for liberal


A descriptive term for persons, policies, and beliefs associated with liberalism.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.