Definition of liberal in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlɪb(ə)r(ə)l/


1Willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas: liberal views towards divorce
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • Why do liberal ideas often connect to unhappiness?
1.1Favourable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms: liberal citizenship laws
More example sentences
  • Crime rates here are comparable to, and in many cases lower than, those in countries with liberal gun laws.
  • Freedom and a liberal society was redeemed for some but not all.
  • Look at Ireland and Scotland and their liberal liquor laws - drunks rage all night.
tolerant, unprejudiced, unbigoted, broad-minded, open-minded, enlightened, forbearing;
permissive, free, free and easy, easy-going, laissez-faire, libertarian, latitudinarian, unbiased, impartial, non-partisan, indulgent, lenient, lax, soft
1.2(In a political context) favouring individual liberty, free trade, and moderate political and social reform: a liberal democratic state
More example sentences
  • Social reformism within a liberal democratic framework is apparently just one more snare in the mechanism of domination.
  • 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.
  • 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.
1.3 (Liberal) Relating to Liberals or a Liberal Party, especially (in the UK) relating to the Liberal Democrat party: the Liberal leader
More example sentences
  • No, both the Labor and Liberal Parties have always used their patronage system to sometimes stack the board with party political hacks.
  • You have to go back to before the First World War when the then Liberal party held the reins of power in the city.
  • If you're in a safe Labor or safe Liberal seat, you'll get nothing.
1.4 Theology Regarding many traditional beliefs as dispensable, invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change.
Example sentences
  • Others who had found that church too theologically liberal for their tastes espoused a more traditional theology.
  • In this regard then, post-Christian liberal religion is at odds with peace and justice movements that struggle to remain Christian.
  • These similarities notwithstanding, liberal Catholicism and Modern Orthodoxy seem to be currently facing two different fates.
2 [attributive] (Of education) concerned with broadening a person’s general knowledge and experience, rather than with technical or professional training: the provision of liberal adult education
More example sentences
  • In Korea, general education, rather than liberal education, is the preferred term.
  • Community colleges offering two-year programs in liberal education and occupational training meet both of these criteria.
  • Learning communities can bring general education, liberal education, and, sometimes, the major together.
3(Especially of an interpretation of a law) broadly construed or understood; not strictly literal: they could have given the 1968 Act a more liberal interpretation
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.
flexible, broad, loose, rough, non-restrictive, free, general, non-literal, non-specific, not literal, not strict, not close;
inexact, imprecise, vague, indefinite, ill-defined, unrigorous, unmeticulous
4Given, used, or occurring in generous amounts: liberal amounts of wine had been consumed
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • Then you want a nice mayo, white vinegar, relish base, with liberal amounts of pepper, some salt and paprika.
  • There was also a liberal amount of calamari, but mostly just legs that weren't that appealing to chase around with a fork.
excessive, immoderate, superabundant, overabundant
informal over the top
literary plenteous
4.1(Of a person) giving generously: Sam was too liberal with the wine
More example sentences
  • Their son was particularly concerned that we bless the space under his bed, so I was liberal with the holy water for his sake.
  • 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.
extravagant, overgenerous, generous to a fault, immoderate, wasteful, overabundant, profligate, prodigal, thriftless, improvident, intemperate, unrestrained, wild
informal over the top
literary bounteous


1A person of liberal views: a concern among liberals about the relation of the citizen to the state
More example sentences
  • Many economic liberals have an optimistic view of economic globalization.
  • Leftists and liberals find this turn of events an indication of bad days to come.
  • How could he be defended in the pages of our press by supposed liberals and left-wingers?
1.1 (Liberal) A supporter or member of a Liberal Party, especially (in the UK) a Liberal Democrat.
Example sentences
  • 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 Liberals said they were opposed to the war but supported it once it began.



Example sentences
  • The Finance and Expenditure Committee did not suggest any changes to the bill that significantly affected the balance between the restrictiveness and the liberalness of the regime.


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 sense 4 of the adjective) gave rise to an obsolete meaning 'free from restraint', leading to sense 1 of the adjective (late 18th century).

Words that rhyme with liberal


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: lib|eral

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