con·​ser·​va·​tism | \ kən-ˈsər-və-ˌti-zəm \

Definition of conservatism

1 capitalized

a : the principles and policies of a Conservative party
b : the Conservative party
2a : disposition in politics to preserve what is established
b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (such as retirement income or health-care coverage)
3 : the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change religious conservatism cultural conservatism

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Examples of conservatism in a Sentence

the state's well-known conservatism means that progressive legislation always has an uphill battle

Recent Examples on the Web

White identity politics — that is not conservatism. Tara Golshan, Vox, "Paul Ryan wants you to know he has identified what’s wrong with the Republican Party," 17 Dec. 2018 And that is fiscal conservatism and individual freedom. Fox News, "Former WWE champ Glenn 'Kane' Jacobs on running for mayor," 2 May 2018 What didn’t seem to change was Saudi Islamic conservatism in the morals, lifestyle and the social realm. WSJ, "Saudis Pushed Wahabism Well Before 1979," 2 Apr. 2018 That could mean trouble for vulnerable Republicans like Sen. Dean Heller, who is up for re-election in Nevada, a blue state not known for its social conservatism. NBC News, "The vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick spells danger for this Democratic senator," 1 July 2018 His surprising conservatism might also be the result of the absolutism and extremism of his critics, whether among the media, traditional Democratic activists or the anti-Trump right. Anchorage Daily News, "Trump’s thrilling first year," 20 Jan. 2018 At its best, conservatism is about doubt and deliberation, not dreams. The Economist, "The Conservative Party has trashed the basic principles of conservatism," 12 July 2018 Is modern Christian conservatism the product of Graham’s politicking or a repudiation of his values? Daniel K. Williams, Newsweek, "Did Billy Graham Bring About the Evangelical Christian Right?," 23 Feb. 2018 But his mainstream brand of conservatism appealed to voters in the Columbus and Cincinnati suburbs far more than Mr. Cordray’s liberal populism. Allysia Finley, WSJ, "A Big Night for Democrats, but Not Progressives," 7 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'conservatism.' 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 conservatism

1815, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for conservatism

see conserve entry 1

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Last Updated

5 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for conservatism

The first known use of conservatism was in 1815

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English Language Learners Definition of conservatism

: belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society
: dislike of change or new ideas in a particular area

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