con·​ser·​va·​tism kən-ˈsər-və-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce conservatism (audio)
: the principles and policies of a Conservative party
: the Conservative party
: disposition in politics to preserve what is established
: 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)
: the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change
religious conservatism
cultural conservatism

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 Still, Romney has been seen as broadly popular in Utah, which has long harbored a band of the party that’s favored civil conservatism and resisted Trump’s brash and norm-busting style of politics. Michelle L. Price, Fortune, 13 Sep. 2023 Douthat offers a counter-secular perspective—one that encompasses both the Catholic conservatism that currently rules the Supreme Court and the skepticism of science and tendency toward conspiratorial thinking that activates the political fringes. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2023 National Lampoon’s 1978 college comedy bred an era of excess, sometimes disguised as conservatism Forty-five summers ago, American popular culture got split in half. Ty Burr, Washington Post, 15 Aug. 2023 Hurdian talking points don’t quite evoke George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism, but there’s an overlap between his philosophy and the Grand Old Party of yore. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 11 Aug. 2023 Pence said the party has to choose either conservatism or populism. The Editors, National Review, 8 Sep. 2023 This included the establishment of Shariat courts, the introduction of punishments for immorality, and the promotion of religious conservatism in schools and universities. Hasan Ali, The Christian Science Monitor, 24 Aug. 2023 As the most prominent print voice of Reagan-era conservatism, the Journal is not about to lavish column inches on no-hope candidates like Asa Hutchinson. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 4 Sep. 2023 The song, and the backlash against it, threatens to strengthen popular conceptions about the inherent conservatism of country music. William Nash, The Conversation, 29 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'conservatism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1815, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of conservatism was in 1815

Dictionary Entries Near conservatism

Cite this Entry

“Conservatism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​ser·​va·​tism kən-ˈsər-və-ˌtiz-əm How to pronounce conservatism (audio)
: a political belief supporting established institutions and customs and preferring gradual development to sudden change
: a desire to preserve an existing situation or existing ways

More from Merriam-Webster on conservatism

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