Definition of populist in US English:



  • A person, especially a politician, who strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.

    ‘he ran as a populist on an anticorruption platform’
    ‘right-wing populists seem poised to make electoral gains’
    • ‘The backlash against the theory of evolution resonated not only with religious fundamentalists, but also with political and economic populists.’
    • ‘Like other populists, Chavez disdains any party institutionalization that might constrain his personal autonomy.’
    • ‘I was interested in this notion of Grisham the Populist, based on reading the book reviews and seeing several Grisham flicks.’
    • ‘I think that this party has a big future, because no other party, apart from the populist and far-right parties, can be present in the difficult areas and housing estates.’
    • ‘Toledo's main rival in the elections was former president Alan García of the populist APRA party.’
    • ‘At first, this was interpreted as just one of many threats made by the right-wing populist to intimidate his internal party adversaries.’
    • ‘There was a time when the Democratic party was populist / progressive - William Jennings Bryan was our guy.’
    • ‘This view, albeit hostile, highlights the essence of the phenomenon that evolved through the parallel activities of anarchists, populists, and syndicalists, as well as nihilists in Lenin's youth.’
    • ‘The populists and anarchists simply have no theory of the unpredictable ups and downs of capitalist growth which bolster and erode bourgeois domination of society.’
    • ‘Its members ranged from patricians to populists, from Main Street Republicans to prairie socialists.’
    • ‘Despite political protests from anti-American populists in Manila, the potent tool of U.S. airpower may well be applied.’
    • ‘The conversion of Bustamante from a conservative Democrat to a populist has been rather sudden.’
    • ‘Zizek maintains that today the new rightist populists are the only political force which attempts to address the people with anti-capitalist rhetoric to mobilize the working class.’
    • ‘In common with other right-wing European populists, Havel's campaign is nothing other than a cover for the dismantling of democratic rights and the establishment of an authoritarian regime faithful to the president.’
    • ‘The White Australia policy was particularly championed by the ALP, the emerging trade union aristocracy and a whole host of petty bourgeois populists.’
    • ‘In Manning's opinion, Harper is not a populist in the democratic reform tradition.’
    • ‘The fact is that our Parliament is peopled largely by populists whose interest lies, so they say, in representing their voters.’
    • ‘The party defined the new Turkey as nationalist, republican, populist, secular, statist, and revolutionary.’
    • ‘And the only parties fighting on specifically European issues are the the UK Independence party and other populists desperate to leave the union.’
    • ‘Moreover, he was something new in this state with an historic taste for populism - a centrist populist.’


  • 1Relating to or characteristic of a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.

    ‘party leaders plan to reprise the populist rhetoric that they used in the tax fight’
    ‘a populist opposition leader’
    ‘populist tabloid newspapers’
    • ‘He sounds much more populist than most Democrats do.’
    • ‘He was imprisoned in 1915, but in 1918 the powerful, populist leader was released in the hope that he might be able to contain growing army unrest.’
    • ‘We often underestimate the weight that our voice carries among military and populist leaders alike.’
    • ‘At the same time, the Union parties and the SPD are preparing to divert popular anger over government policy by means of right-wing populist campaigns.’
    • ‘Today he continued to strike the defiant, populist tone that characterized his campaign.’
    • ‘But to undercut Edwards' populist image, the Republicans suggest that Edwards should have done just that.’
    • ‘A nation divided by populist rhetoric will weaken and fail.’
    • ‘Well, I say a bit of reductionism is a good thing - it stops the waters being muddied so much by name-calling and populist propaganda.’
    • ‘Arrayed against them are postmodernists and leftists as well as populist nationalists who have revived Maoist ideas about people power.’
    • ‘I would grant the relative singularity of American institutions but then see this lack as an element of populist democracy rejected by others in the name of good government.’
    • ‘It seemed to many that the revered Constitution was really the bulwark of powerful economic interests and, therefore, the enemy of more egalitarian and populist policies.’
    • ‘He warns that it is not enough to spread democracy: it must be a liberal democracy that mitigates the negative effects of reckless populist democracy.’
    • ‘How is the defeat of neo-liberal policies by populist leaders adopting leftist slogans to be explained?’
    • ‘European social democracy cannot allow populist discontent to become a monopoly of the right.’
    • ‘Its election manifesto is replete with populist rhetoric opposing privatisation and defending the public sector.’
    • ‘It also serves to mobilise despairing layers of society for a right-wing programme and garner support for the government with populist demagogy.’
    • ‘The CSU has consistently worked inside the Union for the integration of nationalist and right-wing populist forces.’
    • ‘It's unlikely that the IHA seeks to return the Emperor to the position that he once held but it's equally unlikely that it favours a democratic, populist approach to the monarchy.’
    • ‘In fact, it is being shut down by populist Labour councillors who have whipped up fear among the local residents.’
    • ‘But Schröder sees only the work of populist demagogues.’
    elected, representative, parliamentary, popular, of the people
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Appealing to or aimed at ordinary people.
      ‘it seems their efforts in creating a populist movement for chamber music are paying off’


Late 19th century (originally referring to a US political party): from Latin populus ‘people’ + -ist.