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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Those of us who would defend our nation’s environmental defenses, a vital yet under-appreciated legacy of the last half-century, need to examine the recent successes of anti-environmental conservatism and learn. Christopher Sellers, Vox, "How Republicans came to embrace anti-environmentalism," 6 July 2018 Bill Buckley, who had reigned as the de facto leader of American conservatism for decades, excommunicated the John Birch Society, the anti-Semites, and other conspiracy-mongers of the right. Mona Charen, National Review, "The Conspiratorial Mindset among the President’s Supporters," 26 Jan. 2018 Its program combined the fiscal conservatism of the center right with center-left sensibilities. Leonid Bershidsky,, "Oh, the symbolism of Germany's World Cup exit," 28 June 2018 Kavanaugh seems likeliest to change the court through his dogged conservatism, shaped by his belief that the founders intended for Congress to write the laws, the executive branch to execute them and judges to draw a bright line between the two. Brian Bennett, Time, "How Brett Kavanaugh Could Change the Supreme Court—and America," 12 July 2018 The retirement of Anthony Kennedy is an obituary for conservatism in America. Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, "Anthony Kennedy and the Death of True American Conservatism," 29 June 2018 Tehran's sprawling Grand Bazaar has long been a center of conservatism in Iranian politics and remains an economic force within the country — despite the construction of massive malls around the city. Fox News, "Protesters swarm Iran's Grand Bazaar in Tehran, force shops to close in anger over economy," 25 June 2018 Ignoring the Southern evangelical tradition also means ignoring the way that movement shaped the broader development of conservatism in America. Nancy D. Wadsworth, Vox, "The racial demons that help explain evangelical support for Trump," 30 Apr. 2018 Success engenders conservatism in the pursuit of further success. Robert Lloyd,, "What the cancelation of shows like 'One Mississippi' and 'I Love Dick' may portend for the future," 14 Mar. 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.

See More

First Known Use of conservatism

1815, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for conservatism

see conserve entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about conservatism

Share conservatism

Statistics for conservatism

Last Updated

15 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for conservatism

The first known use of conservatism was in 1815

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for conservatism



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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on conservatism

What made you want to look up conservatism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not any or not one

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!