- a person who refuses on moral or religious grounds to serve in the armed forces or to bear arms in a military conflict.
Origin of conscientious objector
- a person who refuses to serve in the armed forces on the grounds of conscience
1896, in reference to those with religious scruples about mandatory vaccination. Military sense predominated from World War I.
After a chequered career full of startling episodes and reversals, the Vaccination Bill becomes virtually the Vaccination Act. In Parliament the hottest of the contest centred round the conscientious objector. [The Lancet, Aug. 13, 1898]
A person who refuses to render military service on the grounds of moral principle or religious belief. A CO must demonstrate a sincere, active, and long-standing objection in order to receive an exemption from armed service. The United States and some European governments officially recognize CO status; approved COs are usually required to perform social service or noncombat military service in place of armed duty. (See also draft, draft dodger, and Selective Service System.)