The French anarchist communist Joseph Déjacque was the first to employ the term libertarian in a political sense in May 1857, in an 11-page pamphlet De l'Etre Humain mâle et femelle (Concerning the Human Male and Female), an open letter criticizing Pierre-Joseph Proudhon published while its author was in exile in New Orleans. From 1858 until his return to France in 1861 Déjacque published in New York a journal called Le Libertaire: Journal du Mouvement Social.
According to the anarchist historian Max Nettlau, the first use of the term libertarian communism was in November 1880, when a French anarchist congress employed it to more clearly identify its doctrines. The French anarchist journalist Sébastien Faure, later founder and editor of the four-volume Anarchist Encyclopedia, started the weekly paper Le Libertaire (The Libertarian) in 1895.
Reflecting international use of the term "libertarian" by anarchists, Peter Kropotkin's 1909 The Great French Revolution noted that "the principles of anarchism" had "their origin" in the directly democratic sections of Paris.". According to the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica article on anarchism, written by Peter Kropotkin, the economic and especially the mutual-banking ideas of Proudhon were applied by supporters the United States. The article states: "It would be impossible to represent here, in a short sketch, the penetration, on the one hand, of anarchist ideas into modern literature, and the influence, on the other hand, which the libertarian ideas of the best contemporary writers have exercised upon the development of anarchism." Writers he named included John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Jean-Marie Guyau, Alfred Jules Émile Fouillée, Multatuli, Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry David Thoreau and others.
Numerous left libertarians or libertarian socialists around the world have so described themselves over the last 100 years. Libertarian socialists, including Noam Chomsky and Colin Ward state that the term libertarianism is considered throughout the world as a synonym for anarchism but in the United States it means free market philosophies.