Liberalism, Classical and Pragmatic

liberal (adj.)
late 14c., from O.Fr. liberal “befitting free men, noble, generous,” from L. liberalis “noble, generous,” lit. “pertaining to a free man,” from liber “free,” from PIE base *leudheros (cf. Gk. eleutheros “free”), probably originally “belonging to the people” (though the precise semantic development is obscure), from *leudho– “people” (cf. O.C.S. ljudu, Lith. liaudis, O.E. leod, Ger. Leute “nation, people”). Earliest reference in English is to the liberal arts. Sense of “free in bestowing” is from late 14c. With a meaning “free from restraint in speech or action” (late 15c.) liberal was used 16c.-17c. as a term of reproach. It revived in a positive sense in the Enlightenment, with a meaning “free from prejudice, tolerant,” which emerged 1776-88. Purely in reference to political opinion, “tending in favor of freedom and democracy” it dates from c.1801, from Fr. libéral, originally applied in English by its opponents (often in French form and with suggestions of foreign lawlessness) to the party favorable to individual political freedoms.

classic (adj.)
1610s, from Fr. classique (17c.), from L. classicus “relating to the (highest) classes of the Roman people,” hence, “superior,” from classis (see class).

classical
1590s, “of the highest rank,” from classic + –al.

pragmatic
1540s, from M.Fr. pragmatique, from L. pragmaticus “skilled in business or law,” from Gk. pragmatikos “versed in business,” from pragma (gen. pragmatos) “civil business, deed, act,” from prassein “to do, act, perform.”

—Douglas Harper

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