[lib-er-uh-liz-uh m, lib-ruh-]


the quality or state of being liberal, as in behavior or attitude.
a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.
(sometimes initial capital letter) the principles and practices of a liberal party in politics.
a movement in modern Protestantism that emphasizes freedom from tradition and authority, the adjustment of religious beliefs to scientific conceptions, and the development of spiritual capacities.

Origin of liberalism

First recorded in 1810–20; liberal + -ism
Related formslib·er·al·ist, noun, adjectivelib·er·al·is·tic, adjectivean·ti·lib·er·al·ism, nounan·ti·lib·er·al·ist, noun, adjectivean·ti·lib·er·al·is·tic, adjectivenon·lib·er·al·ism, nounsem·i·lib·er·al·ism, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for liberalism

Contemporary Examples of liberalism

Historical Examples of liberalism

  • I was ashamed of him, and sick of Liberalism, as I sat there.

    The Coryston Family

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • A Liberalism worthy of the word should lift its head and see new paths.

    Another Sheaf

    John Galsworthy

  • Adelaide had a Federation-wide reputation for left-wing neo-Marxist "liberalism."

    Oomphel in the Sky

    Henry Beam Piper

  • Even the dreadful Hamidian tyranny could not kill Turkish liberalism.

    The New World of Islam

    Lothrop Stoddard

  • They call us Rationalists; take care you don't fall into Liberalism.

    Loss and Gain

    John Henry Newman

British Dictionary definitions for liberalism



liberal opinions, practices, or politics
a movement in modern Protestantism that rejects biblical authority
Derived Formsliberalist, noun, adjectiveliberalistic, adjective
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 liberalism

1819, from liberal + -ism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

liberalism in Culture


In the twentieth century, a viewpoint or ideology associated with free political institutions and religious toleration, as well as support for a strong role of government in regulating capitalism and constructing the welfare state (see also welfare state).

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.