Meaning of Whig in English:


Pronunciation /wɪɡ/


  • 1A member of the British reforming and constitutional party that sought the supremacy of Parliament and was eventually succeeded in the 19th century by the Liberal Party.

    Compare with Tory (sense 1 of the noun)

    ‘The aristocratic Whigs had passed the Reform Bill in 1832 to hitch the middle classes to the constitution, but increasingly they faced criticism from radicals for standing in the way of democracy.’
    • ‘Like Burke, Scott was suspicious of the French Revolution and was much alarmed by Napoleonic Imperialism and Whigs ' Reform Bill.’
    • ‘In 1783, with Tory Prime Minister Shelbourne's government in ruin, George III was appalled at the idea of accepting a Whig as prime minister.’
    • ‘It was the era when William Pitt, prime minister and head of the Tory Party, clashed with Charles Fox and his more liberal Whigs.’
    • ‘In 1830, he became Whig Member of Parliament for Calne in Wiltshire and helped pass the Reform Act of 1832.’
  • 2A supporter of the American side during the War of American Independence.

    • ‘A political party in favor of American independence, Whigs are usually anti-British and are willing to fight if they have to.’
    1. 2.1A member of an American political party in the 19th century, succeeded by the Republicans.
      ‘So long as the populace preserved republican virtues, Whigs saw hope in an emerging industrial nation.’
      • ‘It was the American Whigs, typified by Lincoln, who freed the slaves - in the only way in which that could be done.’
      • ‘At the same time, however, those alienated by Federalists and Whigs proved somewhat reluctant to cast their lot with political parties dominated by southern planters.’
      • ‘Thomas Jefferson endured a vicious, partisan press, and Lincoln saw his Whig party splinter into anti-slavery Republicans and popular sovereignty Democrats.’
      • ‘Taylor was the last Whig to be elected president.’
  • 3A 17th-century Scottish Presbyterian.

    ‘Educated at Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities, he was a Whig who became a Scottish judge and an MP.’
    • ‘What was crucial for the post-revolutionary Whigs that comprised the Scottish Enlightenment was not Locke but rather their own institutional status.’
    • ‘A high-church Whig, he was appointed bishop of Lincoln in 1716, and in 1723 translated to the see of London.’
  • 4as modifier Denoting a historian who interprets history as the continuing and inevitable victory of progress over reaction.

    ‘You align yourself with Whig historians, happy to see the victory of the Hanoverian regime as a necessary triumph of progress and pragmatism.’
    • ‘Colin Kidd has claimed that this, and the ahistorical ‘modernization’ of the Whig historians, deprived the Scots of a weapon available to other European nationalisms.’
    • ‘This is nothing more than an updated version of what was called the Whig interpretation of history.’
    • ‘Moreover, as the Whig historian Lord Macaulay put it, the best policy for the capitalist ruling class is to ‘reform that you may preserve’.’
    • ‘If Thomas Babington Macaulay gave us the Whig interpretation of history, Victor Davis Hanson has given us the Marvel Comics interpretation, with added Thucydides.’


Mid 17th century (in Whig (sense 3)): probably a shortening of Scots whiggamore, the nickname of 17th-century Scottish rebels, from whig ‘to drive’ + mare.