1. A 19th century political viewpoint or ideology associated with strong support for a broad interpretation of civil liberties for freedom of expression and religious toleration, for widespread popular participation in the political process, and for the repeal of protectionist legal restrictions inhibiting the operation of a capitalist free market economy.

  2. In the 20th century US, the term has come to describe an ideology with similar views on civil liberties and personal freedom issues but now supporting a much stronger role for government in regulating and manipulating the private economy and providing public support for the economically and socially disadvantaged, though still stopping well short of full socialism.

In Europe, the term liberalism is still used more in its 19th century sense, and European liberals are rather more respectful of the values of the free market than their American namesakes, whose views sometimes more closely resemble those of Europeans styling themselves as social democrats.

[See also: ideology, libertarianism, socialism, welfare state]