- favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
- (often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
- of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism, especially the freedom of the individual and governmental guarantees of individual rights and liberties.
- favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
- favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
- of or relating to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.
- free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.
- open-minded or tolerant, especially free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.
- characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts: a liberal donor.
- given freely or abundantly; generous: a liberal donation.
- not strict or rigorous; free; not literal: a liberal interpretation of a rule.
- of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts.
- of, relating to, or befitting a freeman.
- 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.
Origin of liberal
Synonyms for liberal
Antonyms for liberal
- relating to or having social and political views that favour progress and reform
- relating to or having policies or views advocating individual freedom
- giving and generous in temperament or behaviour
- tolerant of other people
- abundant; lavisha liberal helping of cream
- not strict; freea liberal translation
- of or relating to an education that aims to develop general cultural interests and intellectual ability
- a person who has liberal ideas or opinions
Word Origin for liberal
- a member or supporter of a Liberal Party or Liberal Democrat party
- of or relating to a Liberal Party
1820, "member of the Liberal party of Great Britain," from liberal (adj.). Used early 20c. of less dogmatic Christian churches; in reference to a political ideology not conservative or fascist but short of socialism, from c.1920.
This is the attitude of mind which has come to be known as liberal. It implies vigorous convictions, tolerance for the opinions of others, and a persistent desire for sound progress. It is a method of approach which has played a notable and constructive part in our history, and which merits a thorough trial today in the attack on our absorbingly interesting American task. [Guy Emerson, "The New Frontier," 1920]
mid-14c., "generous," also, late 14c., "selfless; noble, nobly born; abundant," and, early 15c., in a bad sense "extravagant, unrestrained," from Old French liberal "befitting free men, noble, generous, willing, zealous" (12c.), from Latin liberalis "noble, gracious, munificent, generous," literally "of freedom, pertaining to or befitting a free man," from liber "free, unrestricted, unimpeded; unbridled, unchecked, licentious," from PIE *leudh-ero- (cf. Greek eleutheros "free"), probably originally "belonging to the people" (though the precise semantic development is obscure), and a suffixed form of the base *leudh- "people" (cf. Old Church Slavonic ljudu, Lithuanian liaudis, Old English leod, German Leute "nation, people;" Old High German liut "person, people") but literally "to mount up, to grow."
With the meaning "free from restraint in speech or action," liberal was used 16c.-17c. as a term of reproach. It revived in a positive sense in the Enlightenment, with a meaning "free from prejudice, tolerant," which emerged 1776-88.
In reference to education, explained by Fowler as "the education designed for a gentleman (Latin liber a free man) & ... opposed on the one hand to technical or professional or any special training, & on the other to education that stops short before manhood is reached" (cf. liberal arts). Purely in reference to political opinion, "tending in favor of freedom and democracy" it dates from c.1801, from French libéral, originally applied in English by its opponents (often in French form and with suggestions of foreign lawlessness) to the party favorable to individual political freedoms. But also (especially in U.S. politics) tending to mean "favorable to government action to effect social change," which seems at times to draw more from the religious sense of "free from prejudice in favor of traditional opinions and established institutions" (and thus open to new ideas and plans of reform), which dates from 1823.
Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. [Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary," 1911]
A descriptive term for persons, policies, and beliefs associated with liberalism.