Per my 1993 version of Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition: We'll start with the derivation, "adj [ME, fr. MF, fr. L liberalis suitable for a freeman, generous, fr. liber free; perh. akin to OE leodan to grow, Gk eleutheros free] (14c)."
I will include every definition so as not to be seen as picking and choosing.
"1 a: of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts. b archaic: of or befitting a man of free birth. 2 a: marked by generosity: OPENHANDED (a ~ giver) b: given or provided in a generous and openhanded way c: ample, full. 3 obs: lacking moral restraint: LICENTIOUS 4: not literal or strict: LOOSE (a ~ translation) 5: BROAD-MINDED, esp: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy or traditional forms 6 a: of, favoring or based upon the principles of liberalism b cap: of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism: esp: of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual esp. economic freedom, greater individual participation in government and constitutional, political and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives -- liberally adv -- liberalness n...syn LIBERAL, GENEROUS, BOUNTIFUL, MUNIFICENT mean giving or given freely and unstintingly. LIBERAL suggests openhandedness in the giver and largeness in the thing or amount given (a teacher liberal with her praise). GENEROUS stresses warmhearted readiness to give more than size or importance of the gift (a generous offer of help). BOUNTIFUL suggests lavish, unremitting giving or providing (children spoiled by bountiful presents). MUNIFICENT suggests a scale of giving appropriate to lords or princes (a munificent foundation grant)
2Liberal n (1820): a person who is liberal: as a: one who is openminded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional or established forms or ways b: cap: a member or supporter of a liberal political party c: an advocate or adherent of liberalism esp. in individual rights."
"Liberalism n (1819) 1: the quality or state of being liberal 2 a often cap: a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity b: a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usu. based on free competition, the self-regulating market and the gold standard c: a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties d: cap: the principles and policies of a Liberal party."
I AM A LIBERAL! Perhaps you are too and didn't know it.
I'm sure there are opinions that differ from this definition, and I would encourage any to comment who has a dictionary with a vastly different definition. I'd also be curious what a newer version has to say.
The 3 words I was surprised to not see as part of these definitions are questioning, curious and skeptical.
government politics philosophy independent liberal liberalism Webster's dictionary definition