“Not only was he stubborn, but excessively so. His illiberality ensured that he would never hear a perspective with which might disagree.”

What is the best definition of illiberality?

Check your answer!

Choice A - Provincialism, or favoring country life
Choice B - The quality of having conviction or faith
Choice C - Espousing conservative or traditional values
Choice D - The trait of closed-mindedness or intolerance


Illiberality (noun) – a disposition marked by someone’s  stubborn adherence to their own cherished worldview: intolerance or closed-mindedness

GRE pro tips:

The meaning of illiberality makes a lot of sense in light of the meaning of its opposite: liberality. In this context, liberality has little to do with politics (that’s liberalism) but rather refers to the trait of being generous in behavior or thinking. People with this trait are open-minded and tolerant. And since adding il- to a word indicates “not” or “un,” illiberality is the trait of closed-mindedness and intolerance.” 

In its original usage, illiberality also indicated a lack of financial generosity, or stinginess, but this connotation is no longer common; however, illiberal people do tend to cling tightly to their cherished worldviews and refuse to even consider the perspectives of others. Because they see the world through the lens of dogmatism – even bigotry – they are rarely worldly: the unfamiliar makes them uncomfortable. Take, for example, the relatively new concept of remote working; if you tried pleading your case for working from home with an old-fashioned, illiberal boss, you’d get a quick and definitive “no.” It’s not even up for debate! 

Example sentences:

“It was no longer fun to visit our grandfather, whose receptiveness had been replaced by an illiberality that made any topic of conversation a challenge.”

“Our pastor was remarkably open-minded compared to the illiberality we’d encountered in our last church.”