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The term libertarian commonly refers to the ideas and adherents of libertarianism (aka classical liberalism).

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Etymology of the word "libertarian"

The term "libertarian" originally means proponent of liberty, and can still be used in this meaning, in the proper context. It can be been opposed to authoritarian (in politics), or to proponents of determinism (in philosophy), etc.

"Libertarian" as "anarchist"

The term "libertarian" was also used by anarchists as synonymous for naming their movement, so that they would clearly avoid the confusion with the derogatory uses of anarchy as synonymous for anomie.

Just like the word "anarchist", the word "libertarian", at least in Europe, has long been synonymous with the socialist kind of anarchists, which may be specified as libertarian socialists. On the other hand, in the United States, it was rather understood as synonymous with individualist anarchist.

"Libertarian" as "classical liberal"

However, in the US since the 1950s, the word libertarian has been massively used by classical liberals, only a few of them being anarchists. These classical liberals sought to avoid confusion with uses of the word liberal then widely associated to various social-democratic and even socialist parties and even ideologies. Indeed, the left-anarchist tradition was as not strong in the US, so the word was not deeply tied to left-anarchism, whereas there was a tradition of individualist anarchists and other non-socialists and non-anarchists calling themselves "libertarians" in the US. The word has spread to the US and then other countries, through the founding of think tanks, parties, etc.

A typographical convention Some writers also follow the convention to use "libertarian" (spelled in lowercase) to mean a general advocate of libertarianism, while "Libertarian" (capitalized) refers specifically to a member of a libertarian political party such as any of the following:

See also:

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