con·​scrip·​tion | \ kən-ˈskrip-shən How to pronounce conscription (audio) \

Definition of conscription

: compulsory enrollment of persons especially for military service : draft During the war the armed forces were heavily dependent on conscription.

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With its scrip- root, conscription means basically writing someone's name on a list—a list that, unfortunately, a lot of people usually don't want to be on. Conscription has existed at least since ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom (27th century B.C.), though universal conscription has been rare throughout history. Forms of conscription were used by Prussia, Switzerland, Russia, and other European powers in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the U.S., conscription was first applied during the Civil War, by both the North and the South. In the North there were pockets of resistance, and the draft led to riots in several cities. The U.S. abandoned conscription at the end of the war and didn't revive it until World War I.

Examples of conscription in a Sentence

young people who face conscription into the army
Recent Examples on the Web The chance of actual conscription, in our modern era of high-tech warfare, is too remote to warrant immediate reform. Steve Chapman,, 9 June 2021 Sweden and Norway in recent years have adopted gender-neutral conscription. Andrew Jeong, WSJ, 3 June 2021 Though the college offers civilian tracks for its graduates, and military conscription is not mandatory, Matos wants to join the college’s ROTC and the Air Force after her graduation there. James Whitlow,, 26 May 2021 For centuries, Scots-Irish settlers tucked into the mountains to evade army conscription and tax collectors. New York Times, 30 Apr. 2021 Taiwan’s military ranks, however, have fallen over the last decade with the phasing out of conscription in response to public pressure, with many young Taiwanese more interested in pursuing other careers. Alastair Gale, WSJ, 22 Apr. 2021 Rights groups have reported various threats against refugees who return, including conscription for men and arrest based on the suspicion that anyone who sided with the rebels who tried to overthrow Mr. al-Assad is a traitor. New York Times, 14 Apr. 2021 He was jailed for three months for refusing conscription into the Ustaša army. Washington Post, 5 Mar. 2021 According to at least one biographer, Hitler spent part of 1912 in Liverpool—perhaps to avoid conscription—with his half-brother and sister-in-law. Hermione Lee, WSJ, 15 Jan. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'conscription.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of conscription

1800, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for conscription

see conscript entry 1

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Time Traveler for conscription

Time Traveler

The first known use of conscription was in 1800

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Statistics for conscription

Last Updated

18 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Conscription.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for conscription



English Language Learners Definition of conscription

: the practice of ordering people by law to serve in the armed forces

More from Merriam-Webster on conscription

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for conscription

Britannica English: Translation of conscription for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about conscription


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