Definition of illiberal in English:



  • 1Opposed to liberal principles; restricting freedom of thought or behaviour.

    ‘illiberal and anti-democratic policies’
    • ‘However, I think they obscure, rather than remove or defuse, the potential conflicts between liberal principles and illiberal groups.’
    • ‘Far more than wanting smokers to stub their fags out, I want the illiberal liberals now running health policy to butt out of people's personal habits.’
    • ‘Since our island is in the Auckland City area we get to choose the mayor from among an assortment of National Party have-beens - a liberal one and an illiberal one - and an entrepreneur bent on not upsetting the chicken coop.’
    • ‘Even the most liberal society is illiberal when it is a question of survival.’
    • ‘They exploit the values of an open liberal society to reach illiberal ends.’
    • ‘Ours is an age of illiberal liberalism and intolerant tolerance, where we are apparently free to live as we choose - so long as we don't want the right to make ‘wrong’ choices.’
    • ‘Trying to bar all acknowledgments of religion by government officials in the name of preventing offense to listeners seems to me more illiberal than liberal.’
    • ‘And yet Scotland has changed in attitudes in the last 20 years, and is as liberal / illiberal as England.’
    • ‘Liberal Democrats have rejected illiberal measures to tackle crime as ineffective and a threat to civil liberties.’
    • ‘It's time they had the courage to join the Liberal Democrats in opposing this expensive and illiberal measure.’
    • ‘Increasingly, the US has used a combination of punitive and rewarding strategies to spread liberal ideas in previously illiberal parts of the world.’
    • ‘If we must choose between a society that is in fact liberal and an illiberal society that scrupulously avoids formal racial criteria, we can hardly appeal to the ideals of liberal pluralism to prefer the latter.’
    • ‘Hence, it seems that the appeal to ‘tolerance’ does not resolve the conflict between liberal values and illiberal minorities.’
    • ‘But does this say anything about the relations likely to develop between liberal and illiberal states?’
    • ‘But just how far should and may the liberal state go to curb illiberal behavior?’
    • ‘And one of the key signs that much of today's left is actually, demonstrably illiberal, intolerant and reactionary, is the way in which this is now a common feature of leftist discourse.’
    • ‘Instead the recent reaction to these decisions has done little to challenge the illiberal, anti-democratic drift of our time.’
    • ‘Both the existing legislation on racism, and that adumbrated by the prime minister on the ‘preachers of hate’, have an illiberal potential - that is, they do restrict freedom of expression.’
    • ‘Is this state of affairs an acceptable result of a pluralistic liberal system, or is there something fundamentally illiberal about American politics today?’
    • ‘In the increasingly illiberal world of orthodox liberalism, competing ideas are answered not by argument but by a pose of moral superiority and by-the-book invective.’
    intolerant, narrow-minded, unenlightened, puritanical, fundamentalist
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  • 2archaic Uncultured or unrefined.

    ‘We are not so much worried about being convicted of being illiberal as having the charge even raised in the first place.’
    ‘They tend to be illiberal, boorish, uncultured, arrogant snobs.’
    uncultured, uncultivated, unrefined, lowbrow, philistine, uneducated, unpolished, provincial, rustic
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  • 3archaic Not generous; mean.

    ‘He is avaricious and ambitious, I fear ungenerous and illiberal; is destitute of heroic daring.’
    thrifty, economical, frugal, canny, careful, prudent, cautious, abstemious, saving, energy-efficient, energy-saving, fuel-efficient, fuel-saving, scrimping, parsimonious
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Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘vulgar, ill-bred’): from French illibéral, from Latin illiberalis ‘mean, sordid’, from in- ‘not’ + liberalis (see liberal).