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

Some locals were appalled; this is Orange County, after all, historically a bastion of Southern California conservatism, and with his long hair and wild beard, and always dressed in a red shirt and sandals, Larsen cut a provocative figure. Sean Elder, Town & Country, "The War of The Grosses: Inside the Bitter Divorce Battle of the Laguna Beach "Bond King"," 22 Oct. 2018 Will the appointee stick to McCain’s more pragmatic brand of conservatism, or embrace Trump’s narcissistic nationalism? Grace Edquist, Teen Vogue, "Cindy McCain Could Take Her Husband's Seat in a "Widow's Succession"," 31 Aug. 2018 Where are corporate interests driving sustainable innovation? Disrupting the divisive narrative that places conservatism and environmentalism in opposition. Noelle Swan, The Christian Science Monitor, "The Monitor’s collaboration with the Energy Foundation," 29 June 2018 Schultz is hardly the first Democrat to try to mix social liberalism with fiscal conservatism. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "Howard Schultz’s Third Way," 6 June 2018 More news: Gallup says the overall shift to the slight left in 2017 could be attributed to how Americans view the person most commonly associated with conservatism today: Donald Trump. Andrew Clark, Indianapolis Star, "Gallup says 22 states are more conservative than average. Indiana is not one of them.," 6 Feb. 2018 Trump’s presidency has driven home the surprising reality that Trump is conservatism. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "The Anti-Trump Right Has Become Trump’s Base," 3 July 2018 During a speech this past weekend in Lima, Pence displayed what some may consider to be the compassionate conservatism that the last Republican president attempted to make more normative among the GOP. Eugene Scott, Washington Post, "Pence’s tone toward refugees may be softer than Trump’s but that’s where the difference ends," 16 Apr. 2018 If the vision is conservatism without Trump, the party bulwarks are there to support it. Christopher Baylor, Vox, "The post-Trump GOP looks a lot like the pre-Trump GOP," 6 Apr. 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

12 Nov 2018

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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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