Definition of liberal in English:

liberal

adjective

  • 1Open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.

    ‘they have more liberal views toward marriage and divorce than some people’
    • ‘It's not a liberal idea that will cause the ruination of civilization.’
    • ‘A deepening conflict between the liberal intelligentsia and the government has developed over the last several years.’
    • ‘I think that these kinds of liberal ideas are pervasive in Western societies.’
    • ‘I think it is even more important than ever that the open, generous, liberal view have a responsible and regular voice.’
    • ‘They tend to be more liberal on social issues.’
    • ‘The result: a man with some very liberal ideas, such as nationalized healthcare, won.’
    • ‘He's too liberal on social issues and his name sends minority communities into a rage.’
    • ‘Why do liberal ideas often connect to unhappiness?’
    • ‘In spite of all experience they hoped that Prussia was more open to liberal ideas than Austria.’
    • ‘Western countries pride themselves on their supposedly liberal acceptance of different cultures.’
    • ‘His liberal family accepted his homosexuality.’
    • ‘Who will defend liberal ideas against the enemy of liberal ideas?’
    • ‘My parents are very liberal and open so we'll be fine.’
    • ‘That we shouldn't meddle in other countries if our own country needs work is also a liberal idea.’
    • ‘Friends and family call me liberal, but that's not entirely true.’
    unbiased, unprejudiced, prejudice-free, accepting, non-partisan, neutral, non-aligned, non-judgemental, non-discriminatory, anti-discrimination, objective, disinterested, dispassionate, detached
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Favorable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms.
      ‘liberal citizenship laws’
      • ‘Crime rates here are comparable to, and in many cases lower than, those in countries with liberal gun laws.’
      • ‘The biggest complaint, a problem the U.S. has been pushing to address, is forced overtime in defiance of what is, on paper, a liberal Cambodian labor law.’
      • ‘We ought to remember that Thai immigration laws are actually very liberal.’
      • ‘In contrast, countries like the UK and the Netherlands have always enjoyed liberal laws relating to the content of vitamins, with few restrictions.’
      • ‘The Mises Institute is located in Alabama, a state blessed with very liberal gun laws.’
      • ‘If New Zealand's liberal media ownership laws have a virtue, it's that of simplicity.’
      • ‘French archival laws became more liberal after 1975, and historians were less prone to see their task as glorifying the Resistance.’
      • ‘Our state will be a shining beacon of liberal freedom, where anyone and everyone will have the right to live any way they want, and believe whatever they want.’
      • ‘Freedom and a liberal society was redeemed for some but not all.’
      • ‘The New Jersey Restaurant Association earlier this summer reported a surge in business as smokers travelled across from New York to avail of its more liberal laws.’
      • ‘New Zealand law has taken a very liberal approach to dual citizenship, particularly since 1977.’
      • ‘However, the country is rich in natural resources and has liberal foreign investment laws.’
      • ‘The liberal state should be neutral towards people's ethical ideas.’
      • ‘They dream of a better life in Britain, where immigration laws are relatively liberal and they have an easier path to becoming legal residents.’
      • ‘Look at Ireland and Scotland and their liberal liquor laws - drunks rage all night.’
      • ‘It is still, by world standards, a free, open, liberal society.’
      • ‘The government encourages the existence of charitable NGOs through tax exemptions and liberal laws of association and incorporation.’
      • ‘Accordingly, the calling to account of ministers in the Chamber was authorized in 1867 and a liberal press law was passed in 1868.’
      • ‘It would seem that we are, unless we can change the liberal laws of our country.’
      • ‘If that narrow path is crossed carefully, Turkey could eventually be a more open, more liberal society.’
      tolerant, unprejudiced, unbigoted, broad-minded, open-minded, enlightened, forbearing
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (in a political context) favoring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform.
      ‘a liberal democratic state’
      • ‘It comes from a deep-seated conviction that there is only one economic system, the globalised free market, set in the political context of liberal democracy.’
      • ‘If the book gets bogged down occasionally in its liberal social, political, economic, etc discourse, it can be forgiven.’
      • ‘As unyielding as any of the cold war communist regimes, it is neither economically liberal nor politically democratic, but has ruled for all but one of the past 46 years.’
      • ‘It has, in the intervening period, abandoned its residual ties to liberal reformism and any genuine defense of democratic rights.’
      • ‘Second is the fact that liberal democracy could not flourish without modern science and technology.’
      • ‘Politicians in modern liberal democracies confidently expect to die in bed.’
      • ‘Different historical and social contexts have shaped the political goals of liberal socialism.’
      • ‘In many respects it is conducted in more earnest, for higher stakes, and against greater odds than political life in liberal democracies.’
      • ‘Social reformism within a liberal democratic framework is apparently just one more snare in the mechanism of domination.’
      • ‘The next major burst of policy activity came three decades later as America entered a period of liberal progressive politics.’
      • ‘It goes beyond this of course, and makes arguments and is at home in liberal democratic politics.’
      • ‘If one is to be truly for liberal government and social democracy, then you must be for these things abroad as well as at home.’
      • ‘The Democrats have abandoned any policy of liberal social reform and adapted themselves, in deeds if not in words, to the class-war policies of the Republicans.’
      • ‘In the context of a liberal democratic society, this is a preferred approach to either party having a monopoly of power or the government regulating all aspects of employment.’
      • ‘The first is the centrality of liberal democracy to contemporary political philosophy.’
      • ‘This party, which long ago abandoned its past association with liberal social reforms, cannot and will not defend the programs it once championed.’
      • ‘This trend is scarring the social landscape of every liberal democracy, and it doesn't only hit us on the roads.’
      • ‘Republican liberalism is built on the claim that liberal democracies are more peaceful and law-abiding than are other political systems.’
      • ‘In liberal democracies, most political participation stems from the initiatives of individuals or of institutions that are not formally part of government.’
      • ‘Its own steady drift to the right over the last quarter-century mirrors the breakdown of the objective basis in the United States for a program of liberal social reform.’
      progressive, advanced, modern, forward-looking, forward-thinking, progressivist, go-ahead, enlightened, reformist, radical
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 Of or characteristic of Liberals or a Liberal Party.
      • ‘Moreover, they tended to characterize conservative senators critically while characterizing liberal senators in flattering terms.’
      • ‘Sometimes they become conservative and sometimes they become liberal about these things.’
      • ‘The left often laments the ideological gulf between itself and even the most liberal Democrats in office.’
      • ‘An equally uncritical response came from liberal politicians in the Democratic Party.’
      • ‘The problem, of course, is that a wave of chaotic, uncoordinated ads funded by a variety of liberal groups interested in different issues could do nearly as much harm as good.’
      • ‘Most liberal Democrats have never been willing to recognize that extent to which terrorism threatens this country.’
      • ‘Some were outraged and maintained that Auburn had become too liberal.’
    4. 1.4 (in the UK) relating to the Liberal Democrat Party.
      ‘the Liberal leader’
      • ‘No, both the Labor and Liberal Parties have always used their patronage system to sometimes stack the board with party political hacks.’
      • ‘If you're in a safe Labor or safe Liberal seat, you'll get nothing.’
      • ‘You have to go back to before the First World War when the then Liberal party held the reins of power in the city.’
      • ‘Someone said that the last five Liberal leaders in New South Wales have been Catholics.’
      • ‘Progress will depend on the city's new Liberal Democrat leaders who are not yet in a position to respond.’
    5. 1.5Theology Regarding many traditional beliefs as dispensable, invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change.
      • ‘In this regard then, post-Christian liberal religion is at odds with peace and justice movements that struggle to remain Christian.’
      • ‘Others who had found that church too theologically liberal for their tastes espoused a more traditional theology.’
      • ‘Wilson himself focuses on two options that thrived during the modern period: liberal Protestantism and Catholic modernism.’
      • ‘These similarities notwithstanding, liberal Catholicism and Modern Orthodoxy seem to be currently facing two different fates.’
      • ‘Modern liberal seekers found him unnecessarily complicated or downbeat, while Christians found his theology thin and secular.’
  • 2attributive (of education) concerned mainly with broadening a person's general knowledge and experience, rather than with technical or professional training.

    • ‘Growing numbers of college students, however, never experience the richness of a liberal education.’
    • ‘In other words, teacher trainees must acquire knowledge of subject matter, as well as a general liberal education.’
    • ‘Our responsibility is to preserve and protect liberal education for those students who come to us in the trust that education can change lives of base metal into gold.’
    • ‘The notion of integrating the goals of liberal education into students' majors was taken seriously.’
    • ‘In Korea, general education, rather than liberal education, is the preferred term.’
    • ‘Those are precisely the skills taught by liberal education.’
    • ‘The history of higher education teaches us that liberal education is inextricably intertwined with normative goals.’
    • ‘Some standards are more explicit than others, but efforts are underway to enhance the relationship between professional and liberal education.’
    • ‘Community colleges offering two-year programs in liberal education and occupational training meet both of these criteria.’
    • ‘The availability of a liberal education curriculum by itself is unlikely to stem the tide of technical training.’
    • ‘New technologies offer rich opportunities for enhancing the skills that liberal education seeks to develop.’
    • ‘College presidents mobilize to promote liberal education for all students.’
    • ‘A quality liberal education leads students to reflect on their place in the world and locate themselves historically and socially.’
    • ‘Interdisciplinarity and community are critical elements of this learning community's notion of liberal education.’
    • ‘The need for such programs could be diminished if more high school graduates were better prepared for college and a liberal education.’
    • ‘However, a number of studies have suggested that both professional education and liberal education can profit from integration.’
    • ‘Learning communities can bring general education, liberal education, and, sometimes, the major together.’
    • ‘Specifically, the annual meeting believes it important to state the values of a liberal education for all students and for society at large.’
    • ‘The academy is reinventing the practice of liberal education - but seems bent on ensuring that no one knows.’
    • ‘I have been wondering how to view this broader version of time management as part of a liberal education.’
    wide-ranging, broad-based, general, humanistic
    View synonyms
  • 3(especially of an interpretation of a law) broadly construed or understood; not strictly literal or exact.

    ‘they could have given the 1968 Act a more liberal interpretation’
    • ‘There are also divisions between those who interpret the Qur'an literally and those who are more liberal in its interpretation.’
    • ‘Winning the appreciation of an orthodox audience, with a liberal interpretation of a traditional play, is next to impossible.’
    • ‘Many activists of the sharia movement in economic discourse and activities are also against a liberal interpretation of Islam.’
    • ‘It seemed a liberal interpretation of the term ‘cosmopolitan’ - but then that's rural living for you.’
    • ‘Based purely on a regulation about religious cults, some officials began to offer liberal interpretations.’
    • ‘Pope John Paul's papacy has been marked by his attempt to maintain the traditionalist wing of the Church while rejecting more liberal interpretations.’
    • ‘The liberal interpretation could be demonstrated by an overview and then by explaining selective examples.’
    • ‘Ms. Landolt suggests that such liberal interpretations of the Charter's freedom of expression guarantees give licence to extreme social deviance.’
    • ‘Legally this was accommodated by the relevant regulators adopting a more liberal interpretation of the legislation, and to some extent through judicial approval of those decisions.’
    • ‘Statutes providing such benefits are to be given a liberal interpretation so as to achieve their objective.’
    • ‘The other regional accrediting associations that were reviewed have faculty guidelines that could have a more liberal interpretation.’
    • ‘This is a much more liberal interpretation of success.’
    • ‘This subsection must be given a large and liberal interpretation to achieve the overall purpose of the Rules.’
    • ‘Similarly, Dutch courts have placed a liberal interpretation on Dutch legislative provisions on jurisdiction over war crimes.’
    • ‘Although there is a reluctance to admit it, the liberal interpretation is largely confessional and pastoral in its tone and direction.’
    • ‘These are liberal interpretations of the text to be sure.’
    • ‘We will often give very liberal interpretations to vague or inconsistent claims about ourselves in order to make sense out of the claims.’
    • ‘This last qualification allowed a liberal interpretation of the system.’
    • ‘For the purpose of combining crosses we recommend liberal interpretation of this test and careful attention to other sources of evidence.’
    • ‘Dr Javaid Iqbal, in the end, approves of the Sufis' liberal interpretation of Islam, which helped poetry, music and dance to find a place in Muslim culture.’
    flexible, broad, loose, rough, non-restrictive, free, general, non-literal, non-specific, not literal, not strict, not close
    View synonyms
  • 4Given, used, or occurring in generous amounts.

    ‘liberal amounts of wine had been consumed’
    • ‘He ordered a cup of black coffee and a Danish, added a liberal amount of milk, then found a stool facing the boarding gates and sat down.’
    • ‘Current tradition requires dousing the beast in a liberal amount of whisky while accompanying it with an even larger measure.’
    • ‘Group scout leader Ann Pope restored the mace to its former glory with liberal amounts of metal polish, furniture wax and elbow grease, and a handing-back ceremony was arranged.’
    • ‘Note that the patient has used liberal amounts of hair gel, hair spray, and perfume, all of which act as fuel and accelerants for a fire.’
    • ‘Garden ponds won't count, though, so if you have a swimming pool, fill it with water lilies and goldfish, take down the diving board and apply liberal amounts of weed and reeds until he has gone.’
    • ‘Elaine poured out a liberal amount of brandy to warm him.’
    • ‘There was also a liberal amount of calamari, but mostly just legs that weren't that appealing to chase around with a fork.’
    • ‘Tips for reducing exposure to UV radiation include wearing protective clothing, applying liberal amounts of sunscreen and staying in the shade as much as possible.’
    • ‘His dirty blond hair, having been cut short three months previous, had grown out some, and the man had spiked it using the girls' hair gel in liberal amounts.’
    • ‘Another excellent combination is with sushi, especially if you like a liberal amount of wasabi with your fish.’
    • ‘If circumstances allow, at a party or ceremony, grilled chicken, soft drinks, and bottled beer are served and consumed in liberal amounts.’
    • ‘She poured a liberal amount over her cereal, and then began to eat.’
    • ‘Water plants deeply once a week as weather heats up, and surround them with liberal amounts of mulch to shade the soil and add organic matter.’
    • ‘Sprinkle a liberal amount over dry carpeting or upholstery, making sure the item is covered with a thin layer of baking soda.’
    • ‘Remove to a large oven tray, and add liberal amounts of good olive oil and sea salt.’
    • ‘This early stage of the diet allows liberal amounts of fat and protein, and only twenty grams of carbohydrates per day.’
    • ‘Grate liberal amounts of Parmesan on top, making sure your eagerness doesn't cause you to scrape the tips of your fingers on your extra sharp cheese grater.’
    • ‘Then you want a nice mayo, white vinegar, relish base, with liberal amounts of pepper, some salt and paprika.’
    • ‘Wide windows stared out across the porch into the street, and, in return, brought in liberal amounts of the clear autumn sunshine.’
    • ‘On the floor of the first gallery, a space meant to represent aridity, would be a few shallow pools of oil, small amounts of glass and liberal sprinklings of red powder.’
    abundant, copious, ample, plentiful, generous, lavish, luxuriant, profuse, considerable, prolific, rich
    View synonyms
    1. 4.1 (of a person) giving generously.
      ‘Sam was too liberal with the wine’
      • ‘He was even liberal in dishing out helpings for Natalia.’
      • ‘He was very liberal when it came to buying drinks, and in return I was a friend to him.’
      • ‘Ellis was liberal with the fiction and facts in his new novel.’
      • ‘Their son was particularly concerned that we bless the space under his bed, so I was liberal with the holy water for his sake.’
      generous, magnanimous, open-handed, unsparing, unstinting, ungrudging, lavish, free, munificent, bountiful, beneficent, benevolent, big-hearted, kind-hearted, kind, philanthropic, charitable, altruistic, unselfish
      View synonyms

noun

  • 1A person of liberal views.

    • ‘Many economic liberals have an optimistic view of economic globalization.’
    • ‘They say the very thing that social liberals want to hear.’
    • ‘You don't have to be a so-called bleeding-heart liberal or a low-income worker to worry about inequality.’
    • ‘We liberals tend to get awfully paranoid about these coincidences, don't we?’
    • ‘Today's liberals have a naive overconfidence in seemingly easy, scientific answers to social problems.’
    • ‘From being radical liberals they now became national socialists.’
    • ‘Nobody ever accused Ronald Reagan of being a bleeding-heart liberal.’
    • ‘He didn't leave behind a platform with which the moderate liberals could identify.’
    • ‘His embrace of the doctrine of zero tolerance, however, infuriates liberals.’
    • ‘Now I surely disagree with most liberals on many specific moral issues.’
    • ‘How could he be defended in the pages of our press by supposed liberals and left-wingers?’
    • ‘The mania about guns emanating from America's white middle-class liberals seems peculiarly off-base to me.’
    • ‘For liberals to make such arguments effectively, they must first take back their movement from the softs.’
    • ‘Bleeding heart liberals have said the new regulations will deny free speech.’
    • ‘Extreme liberals tend to be those who have not found rules at all congenial.’
    • ‘I think most liberals really do oppose the war.’
    • ‘Classical liberals believe that the precautions and warfare are necessary to protect the bubble.’
    • ‘Worst of all, though, are well-meaning liberals who assist in this subterfuge.’
    • ‘Leftists and liberals find this turn of events an indication of bad days to come.’
    • ‘The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.’
    1. 1.1 A supporter or member of a Liberal Party.
      • ‘In response to this campaign, the Liberals have scuttled still further to the right.’
      • ‘The Liberals were, at the time, the party to which many radicals looked when it came to elections.’
      • ‘I think giving the Liberals a chance would be healthy - it has been in the Scottish parliament.’
      • ‘To essentially claim that he is no better than the Liberals or Tories is plain sectarianism.’
      • ‘The Tories and Liberals were easily beaten into third and fourth places.’
      • ‘The ruling Liberals remained the largest party but lost a lot of support.’
      • ‘Churchill allegedly made his move to the Liberals on the issue of free trade.’
      • ‘The Liberals said they were opposed to the war but supported it once it began.’
      • ‘It ensures that Labor will not be socialist and that the Liberals will not be liberal.’
      • ‘A vote for Plaid or the Liberals could let the Tories in by the back door.’
      • ‘It will be a tragedy if the Liberals continue to be the main beneficiaries of this.’
      • ‘She lost her deposit, as did many hundreds of Liberals in that election.’
      • ‘It's about using fear and xenophobia as a tool to scare people into voting for the Liberals at the next election.’
      • ‘At the time, the Liberals pledged to make health and education spending a priority.’
      • ‘The federal Liberals have taken wasting the public's money to a whole new level.’
      • ‘That's what their forefathers did when they broke from the Liberals over 100 years ago.’
      • ‘Is Labor seriously making common cause with the Liberals to subvert the rule of law?’
      • ‘Council tax has gone up because of the appalling mess the Tories and Liberals are making of running the council.’
      • ‘The Liberals opposed the increase in the national minimum wage to just £4.85 an hour.’
      • ‘The pamphlet concluded with an appeal for voters to place the Liberals last in the election.’

Origin

Middle English: via Old French from Latin liberalis, from liber ‘free (man)’. The original sense was ‘suitable for a free man’, hence ‘suitable for a gentleman’ (one not tied to a trade), surviving in liberal arts. Another early sense ‘generous’ (compare with liberal (sense 4 of the adjective)) gave rise to an obsolete meaning ‘free from restraint’, leading to liberal (sense 1 of the adjective) (late 18th century).

Pronunciation

liberal

/ˈlɪb(ə)rəl//ˈlib(ə)rəl/