This is a follow-up to the discussion in a recent question. Is there a consensus about what liberala and liberalismo mean?

These words have very different connotations in different parts of the world. As far as I can tell, this is mainly "US vs. rest of the world". In the US, if you say liberal without any further qualifications, it means something like "socialist", or in any case, something clearly associated with the left side of the political spectrum. In other parts of the world that I know of (Poland, Norway, etc.), liberal is something hard to classify on the political spectrum, but rather leaning to the right, as it's associated with stressing individual freedom (and not collective), supporting low taxes, etc. A liberal is basically a less extreme version of a libertarian.

The definitions from PIV suggest that liberalismo is associated with the latter, and it's not surprising, given that Esperanto originated in Europe.


1 Σ Idearo favora al reĝimo garantianta la individuajn liberecojn k al forigo de la privilegioj.

2 £ Ekonomika doktrino, kiu malpermesas al la ŝtato enmiksiĝi en la ekonomiajn rilatojn inter la individuoj, klasoj aŭ nacioj.

But is it universally understood this way? Can I for example speak of liberalismo with an American Esperantist, or is it better to look for another word?


Note: To be honest, researching this topic has gotten me a little confused. There does seem to be contradictions in the meaning depending on what sources are used. For this answer, I am going to rely on the wiki article because it has the most detailed information on the topic.

Just like in English, it seems that context is important to determine the meaning. In the context of markets, and businesses, liberalism may mean the support of a free market. In the context of social values, it would mean accepting differences among people.

According to vikipedia, Liberalismo would be closer to the ideas of the democratic party in the USA. The article also mentions different types of liberals.

  • Klasika liberalismo
  • Liberal-faŝismo
  • Konservativa liberalismo
  • Naciisma liberalismo


Generally speaking, according to the wiki, Liberalismo is about freedom and equality, as well as being in direct opposition to conservatism.

If you want to talk about economic theory, then I would suggest using Kapitalismo (unequal wealth distribution) and Socialismo (equal wealth distribution). If you want to talk about social values, then I would use Konservismo (resistant to change) and Liberalismo (accepting of changes and differences).

If you want to be extra clear, you could say Socia Liberalismo or Ekonomia Liberalismo.

I hope that helps.

  • I'm afraid that socia liberalismo is ambiguous, too. It sounds like it could mean either "liberalism with regard to social issues" (without taking any position on economic policies) or "social liberalism" (a.k.a socialliberalismo, which is associated with specific views about both society and economy). – miĥaŭ Dec 1 '16 at 14:52
  • 2
    It is good practice to distinguish clearly between "socia" ("social" in the sense of "with regard to societal issues") and "sociala" ("social" in the sense of "concerned with the welfare of those in need"). If one makes this distinction unambiguously, then "socia liberalismo" only means "liberalism with respect to societal issues", e.g. liberalism about abortion, gay rights, cannabis consumption etc, whereas "sociala liberalismo" only means "a form of liberalism concerned with the welfare of those in need", i.e. what is usually called "social liberalism" in English. – Marcos Cramer Dec 2 '16 at 12:15

First of all, I would agree that your view of liberal in other countries outside of the US is more right-leaning, but I would not agree with your characterization that it is less extreme than a libertarian. Liberals in other countries are generally considered right of center because they do believe in some government intervention.

More importantly, let's discuss the meaning of the word and how to use it in a general sense. I believe that this word could be used in an American sense, but this forum may not be the ultimate decider in this. I recently read that there was a debate at the Akademio de Esperanto about whether to use first floor or ground floor in describing buildings. In the US, we use First Floor, whereas in almost all other countries the first floor would be called the ground floor, making the first floor the same as the second floor for US usage. Their judgement- that is cultural and not an area for language discussion.

Inferring from that judgement, I think it COULD be fair to say that the use of the words liberala and liberalismo is a cultural issue, so it could be used in the American sense as well, especially among US Esperantists and other Esperantists with additional explanation as to what sense of "liberala" you are using.


It depends entirely on the politics of the country. As you mentioned, in America liberal means left wing, whereas it is usually right wing in Europe. Generally liberals want less government intervention both in the economy and in social issues. So liberals tend to oppose high taxes, government regulation and restrictions on abortion or same-sex marriage.

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