[kuh n-sur-vuh-tiv]



Origin of conservative

1350–1400; < Late Latin conservātīvus, equivalent to Latin conservāt(us) (see conservation) + -īvus -ive; replacing Middle English conservatif < Middle French < Latin, as above
Related formscon·serv·a·tive·ly, adverbcon·serv·a·tive·ness, nounan·ti·con·serv·a·tive, adjective, nounan·ti·con·serv·a·tive·ly, adverban·ti·con·serv·a·tive·ness, nounhalf-con·serv·a·tive, adjectivehalf-con·serv·a·tive·ly, adverbhy·per·con·serv·a·tive, adjective, nounhy·per·con·serv·a·tive·ly, adverbhy·per·con·serv·a·tive·ness, nounnon·con·ser·va·tive, adjective, nouno·ver·con·serv·a·tive, adjectiveo·ver·con·serv·a·tive·ly, adverbo·ver·con·serv·a·tive·ness, nounpseu·do·con·serv·a·tive, adjectivepseu·do·con·serv·a·tive·ly, adverbqua·si-con·serv·a·tive, adjectivequa·si-con·serv·a·tive·ly, adverbsem·i·con·serv·a·tive, adjectivesem·i·con·serv·a·tive·ly, adverbsu·per·con·serv·a·tive, adjectivesu·per·con·serv·a·tive·ly, adverbsu·per·con·serv·a·tive·ness, nounun·con·serv·a·tive, adjectiveun·con·serv·a·tive·ly, adverbun·con·serv·a·tive·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for conservative



favouring the preservation of established customs, values, etc, and opposing innovation
of, characteristic of, or relating to conservatism
tending to be moderate or cautiousa conservative estimate
conventional in style or typea conservative suit
med (of treatment) designed to alleviate symptomsCompare radical (def. 4)
physics a field of force, system, etc, in which the work done moving a body from one point to another is independent of the path taken between themelectrostatic fields of force are conservative


a person who is reluctant to change or consider new ideas; conformist
a supporter or advocate of conservatism

adjective, noun

a less common word for preservative
Derived Formsconservatively, adverbconservativeness, noun


adjective (in Britain, Canada, and elsewhere)

of, supporting, or relating to a Conservative Party
of, relating to, or characterizing Conservative Judaism


a supporter or member of a Conservative Party
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for conservative

late 14c., conservatyf, from Middle French conservatif, from Late Latin conservativus, from Latin conservatus, past participle of conservare (see conserve).

As a modern political tradition, conservatism traces to Edmund Burke's opposition to the French Revolution (1790), but the word conservative is not found in his writing. It was coined by his French disciples, (e.g. Chateaubriand, who titled his journal defending clerical and political restoration "Le Conservateur").

Conservative as the name of a British political faction first appeared in an 1830 issue of the "Quarterly Review," in an unsigned article sometimes attributed to John Wilson Croker. It replaced Tory (q.v.) by 1843, reflecting both a change from the pejorative name (in use for 150 years) and repudiation of some reactionary policies. Extended to similar spirits in other parties from 1845.

Strictly speaking, conservatism is not a political system, but rather a way of looking at the civil order. The conservative of Peru ... will differ greatly from those of Australia, for though they may share a preference for things established, the institutions and customs which they desire to preserve are not identical. [Russell Kirk (1918-1994)]

Phrases such as a conservative estimate make no sense etymologically. The noun is attested from 1831, originally in the British political sense.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for conservative




Of or relating to treatment by gradual, limited, or well-established procedures; not radical.
Related formscon•serva•tive•ly adv.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Culture definitions for conservative


A descriptive term for persons, policies, and beliefs associated with conservatism.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.