Definition: Liberalism

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Circa 1819, from French libéralisme circa 1818. Equivalent to liberal (from Latin līberālis meaning “befitting a freeman,” from līber meaning “free”) + -ism.


liberalism (countable and uncountable, plural liberalisms)

  1. The quality of being liberal, especially in the sense of being politically progressive or the sense of being willing to give unsparingly.
  2. (politics) 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.
  3. (economics) An economic ideology in favor of laissez faire and the free market (related to economic liberalism).

Derived terms

  • classical liberalism
  • economic liberalism
  • neoclassical liberalism
  • social liberalism


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