Definition of conservative in English:

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Pronunciation: /kənˈsəːvətɪv/


1Averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values: they were very conservative in their outlook
More example sentences
  • The rapid rise of the green movement is an example of this, because it appeals to traditional conservative values.
  • Lewis was an old-fashioned Christian, and those who consider the church to be too interested in modernising see him as a hero of religious orthodoxy and conservative values.
  • His parents weren't party-political, but he was certainly brought up with traditionally conservative values.
traditionalist, traditional, conventional, orthodox, stable, old-fashioned, dyed-in-the-wool, unchanging, hidebound;
cautious, prudent, careful, safe, timid, unadventurous, unenterprising, set in one's ways;
informal stick in the mud
1.1(Of dress or taste) sober and conventional: a conservative suit
More example sentences
  • The many suits and ties and other conservative dress worn by the crowd yesterday reflected the upscale membership of much of the organisation.
  • The best advice I was always given by peers was to dress in a conservative suit with modest accessories at the interview.
  • Not only are the quantities of meat large, but the fact that there are people who want to eat dried rat bat, or even monkey meat comes as a surprise to those of us whose tastes are more conservative.
conventional, sober, quiet, modest, plain, unobtrusive, unostentatious, restrained, reserved, subdued, subtle, low-key, demure
informal square, straight
2(In a political context) favouring free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas.
Example sentences
  • The libertarian, old conservative wing of the Republican Party has never liked this war.
  • Such developments would presumably be envied by genuine libertarians in socially conservative countries - even if their taxes are lower.
  • However, there is a tendency for European electorates to move to the right or left in a manner that may not be co-ordinated, but does produce clusters of conservative or Socialist governments at any one time.
in the UK Tory;
in the US Republican
informal true blue
2.1 (Conservative) Relating to the Conservative Party of Great Britain or a similar party elsewhere: the Conservative government
More example sentences
  • The Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties are contesting every seat.
  • An important factor in this was the experience of eighteen years of Conservative government.
  • At the same time we had just emerged from a long period of Conservative government.
3(Of an estimate) purposely low for the sake of caution: police placed the value of the haul at a conservative £500,000
More example sentences
  • The number of women trafficked for this purpose is unknown, although conservative estimates put the number in the millions.
  • The combat capability of such a servicemen could be compared, even by conservative estimates, to that of a modern section or even platoon.
  • Those sorts of considerations are why I said $440 billion was a conservative estimate, which is admittedly a bit crazy just to say, but there it is.
low, cautious, understated, unexaggerated, moderate, reasonable
4(Of surgery or medical treatment) intended to control rather than eliminate a condition, with existing tissue preserved as far as possible.
Example sentences
  • The trial randomized 1,033 patients in 27 countries to early surgery or conservative treatment.
  • If conservative treatment fails, surgery to excise any bone spurs and debridement of the retrocalcaneal bursa may be helpful.
  • For patients who do not respond to conservative treatment, surgery should be considered.


1A person who is averse to change and holds traditional values: he remains a conservative in constitutional matters
More example sentences
  • They saw fascists as more patriotic and determined than traditional conservatives.
  • So the claim that there are conservatives who believe in some sort of absolute liberty is a total straw man.
  • The antagonism between conservatives and progressives in Korea has a long history.
in the UK Tory;
in the US Republican
2 (Conservative) A supporter or member of the Conservative Party of Great Britain or a similar party elsewhere.
Example sentences
  • Around them stand officials and party workers from the Conservatives and Lib Dems.
  • The Scottish National Party and Conservatives are expected to oppose the building.
  • There has never been a coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.


conservative with a small ‘c’

Said of someone who is conservative in outlook but does not necessarily vote for or support a Conservative party: I think there are a good number of teachers who are instinctively conservative with a small c
More example sentences
  • There is something conservative about much of Pixar's output, but when I say conservative, I mean a small "c" conservative.



Example sentences
  • Because the desire to combine conflicting data is strong in real studies, the conservativeness of the present test is unlikely to be a major concern for some.
  • And similarly, if the central bank is fully under the spell of government, the conservativeness of the central bank does not matter.
  • Physicists generally maintain a healthy skepticism about whatever they hear and are much less susceptible to dogmatic conservativeness than one might think.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'aiming to preserve'): from late Latin conservativus, from conservat- 'conserved', from the verb conservare (see conserve). Current senses date from the mid 19th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: con|ser¦va|tive

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