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In a text I was reading about philosophy, there was the word illiberal. I guessed its meaning to be something like not liberal or against liberalism. But after checking the dictionary, I found out that it means narrow-minded which is really odd for me. Doesn't liberal stem from the French word libre meaning freedom? And isn't the initial letter i used for making something negative?

Update: What I'm asking here is not the meaning of these words, as they can be sought easily in a dictionary. Rather I'd like to see a morphological analysis of liberal and illiberal.

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    My dictionary says, "opposed to liberal principles; restricting freedom of thought or behavior." So... exactly what you thought it should mean.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 2:38
  • Regarding your update: The point of giving you the meanings was to show that, indeed, the morphological analysis is as simple as you initially thought. Namely, the initial i is negating what follows. Take liberal and negate it. That covers illiberal quite nicely, and renders your subject line incorrect.
    – John Y
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 3:13

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I suspect illiberal meaning narrow-minded is the opposite of liberal meaning free-thinking or as in a liberal arts education.

Similarly illiberal meaning mean is the opposite of liberal meaning generous; and illiberal meaning authoritarian is the opposite of liberal meaning supporting freedom.

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  • Dear @Henry, I appreciate your answer. But my question was kind of morphological analysis of liberal and illiberal. :). +1 for your help. Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 2:31
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    @Saeed: illiberal is il- + liberal, both from Latin where the il- is a version of in- meaning not. Wiktionary shows how in- in Latin changed its spelling before other letters (compare imbecile with inbound).
    – Henry
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 3:28

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