from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The state or quality of being liberal.
  • noun A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.
  • noun The tenets or policies of a Liberal party.
  • noun An economic theory in favor of laissez-faire, the free market, and the gold standard.
  • noun A 19th-century Protestant movement that favored free intellectual inquiry, stressed the ethical and humanitarian content of Christianity, and de-emphasized dogmatic theology.
  • noun A 19th-century Roman Catholic movement that favored political democracy and ecclesiastical reform but was theologically orthodox.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Liberal principles; the principles or practice of liberals; freedom from narrowness or bigotry, especially in matters of religion or politics.
  • noun Specifically, the political principles of a Liberal party.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Liberal principles; the principles and methods of the liberals in politics or religion; specifically, the principles of the Liberal party.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun The quality of being liberal.
  • noun Any political movement founded on the autonomy and personal freedom of the individual, progress and reform, and government by law with the consent of the governed.
  • noun An economic theory in favour of laissez faire and the free market.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun an economic theory advocating free competition and a self-regulating market
  • noun a political orientation that favors social progress by reform and by changing laws rather than by revolution


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Circa 1819, from French libéralisme circa 1818


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  • is that right? not by revolution, huh? kinda like incrementalism i suppose. as opposed to being binary, throwing out all that is old and wrong and start anew with what is "right" or "correct".

    December 9, 2007

  • Liberalism is governed by fundamental rules and beliefs, so I guess what it ultimately aspires to achieve is in a way (little-r) revolutionary.

    December 9, 2007

  • Good point, kewpid. Or, perhaps what it aspires to is just reform of existing conditions and institutions to reach some (perhaps unspoken or undefined) more progressive state of affairs.

    December 9, 2007

  • Singlepayernow, those definitions are from WordNet--they tend to be a little screwy. Doesn't mean everyone thinks they're correct. See WeirdNet. :-)

    December 10, 2007