conspiracy theory

[ kuhn-spir-uh-see theer-ee ]
/ kənˈspɪr ə si ˌθɪər i /
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a theory that rejects the standard explanation for an event and instead credits a covert group or organization with carrying out a secret plot: One popular conspiracy theory accuses environmentalists of sabotage in last year's mine collapse.
a belief that a particular unexplained event was caused by such a covert group: A number of conspiracy theories have already emerged, purporting to explain last week's disappearance of a commercial flight over international waters.
the idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the products of deceptive plots that are largely unknown to the general public: The more I learn about the activities of intelligence agencies, the less far-fetched I find many geopolitical conspiracy theories.
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Origin of conspiracy theory

First recorded in 1905-10

OTHER WORDS FROM conspiracy theory

conspiracy theorist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does conspiracy theory mean?

A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event that claims it was the result of a secret and often complex and evil plot by multiple people.

Conspiracy theories and the conspiracy theorists who promote or formulate them often reject the standard or accepted explanation of unexplained or unusual events and claim that they are the doing of evil conspirators secretly conspiring behind the scenes.

Conspiracy most commonly means a secret plan by multiple people to do something evil or illegal. Conspiracy can also refer to the act of making such plans—the act of conspiring—or to the group making the plans. The people involved can be called conspirators.

In conspiracy theory, the word theory is used in a general way to refer to a proposed explanation that has not been proven. But conspiracy theorists don’t usually treat such theories as just guesses—they often promote them as fact, no matter how bizarre or far-fetched they may be.

Most conspiracy theories involve supposedly secret knowledge of the supposedly secret and evil dealings of powerful people, especially politicians, government officials, billionaires, and celebrities. Such plots are often claimed to have the goal of controlling world events and ordinary people.

Example: Why are several supposedly legitimate news outlets promoting conspiracy theories that have been repeatedly debunked?

Where does conspiracy theory come from?

The first records of the word conspiracy theory come from the early 1900s. Conspiracy ultimately derives from the Latin verb conspīrāre, meaning “to act in harmony” or “to conspire.” It comes from the combination of con-, meaning “together,” and spīrāre, “to breathe.” The suffix -acy indicates a state of action—the state or act of conspiring.

When people hear the word conspiracy, they often think of shady people making shady plans in shady backrooms. The word typically implies both secrecy and evil—people involved in conspiracies are up to no good and they’re trying to hide it. Most conspiracy theories are about this kind of thing. The classic image of a conspiracy theory is that of a bulletin board with strings connecting photos of supposed conspirators and newspaper clippings of seemingly random events. In this way, conspiracy theories often ignore the obvious or simple explanation in favor of an interpretation that tries to tie together unrelated elements in a convoluted way. People are often drawn to such theories because of the appeal of having secret knowledge (the “real” story) that the rest of the population is unaware of. The internet has increased the reach of conspiracy theories, raising serious concerns about how they contribute to the spread of misinformation and disinformation.

Of course, some conspiracies are very real. When people plan to commit a crime together, it’s a criminal conspiracy, and sometimes these conspiracies are uncovered.

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What are some other forms related to conspiracy theory?

  • conspiracy theorist (noun)

What are some words that share a root or word element with conspiracy theory

What are some words that often get used in discussing conspiracy theory?

How is conspiracy theory used in real life?

The term conspiracy theory is often used to mock such theories as absurd.



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Is conspiracy theory used correctly in the following sentence?

You know the world is weird when the real news reads like some bizarre conspiracy theory.

How to use conspiracy theory in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for conspiracy theory

conspiracy theory

the belief that the government or a covert organization is responsible for an event that is unusual or unexplained, esp when any such involvement is denied
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