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 , 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 .
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.
a city in SW Kansas.
Contemporary Examples

Now imagine yourself a very liberal Democrat, one of the 40 or so most liberal, say.
Why Obama’s I-Might-Bomb-Syria-Anyway Stance Could Backfire Michael Tomasky September 2, 2013

The rest of the liberal Democrats on the panel voted against it, as expected.
Cowards Sank the Deficit Plan John Avlon December 2, 2010

Most of the listeners on my radio show are not liberal either.
Alan Colmes: New Book Bids to Liberate Liberalism Lloyd Grove October 9, 2012

(These and other conservagencia reactions were captured by the liberal website ThinkProgress).
Don’t Call Obama Racist John Avlon July 19, 2013

The results may also confirm fears that outside of liberal enclaves on the coasts, the support of same-sex marriage is overstated.
Like Gays? See Ya! David Freedlander September 14, 2012

Historical Examples

He wrote as a liberal in whom the spirit of individualism was active.
A History of French Literature Edward Dowden

Mr. Robert Lowe, a liberal, became one of its most powerful assailants.
The Grand Old Man Richard B. Cook

It may be that the liberal party have omitted to do this as they ought.
Handbook of Home Rule (1887) W. E. Gladstone et al.

This was regarded as the bugle-call to the liberal party for the coming battle.
The Grand Old Man Richard B. Cook

Mr. Blake and his partners were all active members of the liberal Party.
The Canadian Portrait Gallery Volume 3 John Charles Dent

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; lavish: a liberal helping of cream
not strict; free: a 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
a member or supporter of a Liberal Party or Liberal Democrat party
of or relating to a Liberal Party

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]


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]

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

Read Also:

  • Liberalism

    the quality or state of being , 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 […]

  • Libertarian

    a person who advocates , especially with regard to thought or conduct. a person who maintains the doctrine of free will (distinguished from ). advocating or conforming to principles of . maintaining the doctrine of free will. Contemporary Examples Culturally, Perry is much closer to the base than the libertarian peaceniks or the east coast […]

  • Antilife

    antagonistic or indifferent to a normal . regarded as opposing the because of advocating abortion, birth control, etc.

  • Liquor

    a distilled or spirituous beverage, as brandy or whiskey, as distinguished from a fermented beverage, as wine or beer. any liquid substance, as broth from cooked meats or vegetables. Pharmacology, (def 6). a of a substance, especially a concentrated one used in the industrial arts. Informal. to furnish or ply with liquor to drink (often […]

  • Literate

    able to read and write. having or showing knowledge of literature, writing, etc.; literary; well-read. characterized by skill, lucidity, polish, or the like: His writing is literate but cold and clinical. having knowledge or skill in a specified field: Is she computer literate? The boss needs a computer‐literate assistant. having an education; educated. a person […]

Disclaimer: Liberal definition / meaning should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional. All content on this website is for informational purposes only.