Definition of conservative in English:



  • 1Averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values.

    ‘they were very conservative in their outlook’
    • ‘Not until the second half of the nineteenth century did the valuation of scientific knowledge come into conflict with more conservative religious values.’
    • ‘Should I teach them secular values or conservative religious ones?’
    • ‘There he embarked on a covert anti-devolution campaign and many respected journalists left as he imposed his middle-market editorial content and conservative values on the paper.’
    • ‘This modernization was predicated on defense, rather than destruction, of traditional and conservative Spanish Catholic religious culture.’
    • ‘Some activists approach these issues from the perspective of religious freedom and conservative values.’
    • ‘His parents weren't party-political, but he was certainly brought up with traditionally conservative values.’
    • ‘Will it mean that the tide of traditional patriarchal values, of conservative religiosity, will become irreversible?’
    • ‘An orchestrated return to traditional family values has pressured conservative men to explicitly re-valorize women who accept traditional roles.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These prevalent conservative values have complicated the kingdom's relations with its main foreign ally - the United States.’
    • ‘The rapid rise of the green movement is an example of this, because it appeals to traditional conservative values.’
    • ‘This contrasts with a stronger assertion of identity and values among conservative church bodies.’
    • ‘While her friends accept the affair, she must hide it from her tradition-bound parents and religiously conservative older brother.’
    • ‘Kenyan homes are traditionally conservative and strictly patriarchal.’
    • ‘Many of them are religious, (and they may have voted to ban gay marriage) but they are not driven to the polls on the conservative values agenda.’
    • ‘Betty may only be a character, but she's part of a much larger trend toward conservative values and traditional female roles.’
    • ‘What are referred to as the Christian right in the USA are mainly people with very conservative values about issues such as homosexuality and abortion.’
    • ‘If the deceased fisherman has relatives and belongs to a conservative religious tradition, his ambiguous death is more likely to be judged an accident than if he is single and secular.’
    • ‘Here again there is a fine balance to be struck between the use of doctrine to enforce innovation and its more conservative function as the bearer of professional values and institutional memories.’
    • ‘We hear a lot about conservative values in the country.’
    traditionalist, traditional, conventional, orthodox, stable, old-fashioned, dyed-in-the-wool, unchanging, hidebound
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    1. 1.1 (of dress or taste) sober and conventional.
      ‘a conservative suit’
      • ‘The rather conservative dress in question is on the left as you can see.’
      • ‘It also is the least atonal-sounding movement and will likely appeal even to those of fairly conservative tastes.’
      • ‘The busts bear no arms or other marks which might help with identification of the sitters, although the conservative dress and hairstyle suggest they were from the middle classes.’
      • ‘The best advice I was always given by peers was to dress in a conservative suit with modest accessories at the interview.’
      • ‘She was wearing a conservative peach dress suit and low-heeled white shoes.’
      • ‘He really does look as if a men's conservative dress shop is the only place that would hire him.’
      • ‘Not wanting to bowl him over completely on their first date, she'd donned a fairly conservative dress of navy blue, with white trim and buttons.’
      • ‘It was a kind of sweet and sour sauce, possibly of lemon and mustard, that just didn't hit it off with my conservative taste buds.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Since newcomers established colonies in imitation of their homelands, their taste was inherently conservative, broadening only with time and travel.’
      • ‘The traditional range is still being sold, particularly into America where tastes are more conservative.’
      • ‘The dress was very conservative, but it accentuated my curves.’
      • ‘The real viewers are likely to be over 50, married and of broadly conservative tastes.’
      • ‘For women, the look is conservative - ladylike suits, sophisticated pantsuits, subtle dark dresses.’
      • ‘Otherwise, he has dressed in a conservative gray suit, with a crisp white shirt and perfectly creased trousers.’
      • ‘She was dressed in a conservative black suit and pearls.’
      • ‘The hectic design would hardly have conformed with Philip's conservative taste.’
      • ‘The many suits and ties and other conservative dress worn by the crowd yesterday reflected the upscale membership of much of the organisation.’
      • ‘The students' conservative dress also belies the fact that they are, like they were in my day, by and large liberal in outlook.’
      • ‘I work for a commercial real-estate company with a highly conservative dress code.’
      conventional, sober, quiet, modest, plain, unobtrusive, unostentatious, restrained, reserved, subdued, subtle, low-key, demure
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  • 2(in a political context) favouring free enterprise, private ownership, and socially conservative ideas.

    • ‘Actually, if the indie labels had politics they were at base neither socialist nor conservative but autonomist.’
    • ‘His roots were embedded in the Labour party, in its internal power mechanisms, its trade union affiliations and its conservative brand of social democracy.’
    • ‘A return to the traditional conservative values of non-intervention and prudence is called for.’
    • ‘The resulting paradox - a transgressive aesthetic supporting a conservative social and political status quo - would endure until the end of the Old Regime.’
    • ‘None of these people could remotely be described as liberals, meaning that the Republican Party and conservative America is itself split on the question.’
    • ‘That is holding back socialist revolutions to appease a more conservative capitalist element.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the electoral reality for the SNP is that it holds what were historically Tory seats - ones which remain socially and politically conservative.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘My idea of a conservative is somebody who thinks taxes are too high.’
    • ‘Broadly speaking, the more conservative the state's political representation in the legislature, the more regressive its tax burden.’
    • ‘In this context, conservative governments sought to transform social security into an insurance-based system.’
    • ‘Such developments would presumably be envied by genuine libertarians in socially conservative countries - even if their taxes are lower.’
    • ‘Its centre of political gravity has moved from conservative liberalism to social democracy and environmentalism.’
    • ‘The libertarian, old conservative wing of the Republican Party has never liked this war.’
    right-wing, reactionary, traditionalist, unprogressive, establishmentarian, blimpish
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    1. 2.1 Relating to the Conservative Party of Great Britain or a similar party elsewhere.
      ‘the Conservative government’
      • ‘If Labour wins its expected second landslide it will mark the end of a century of Conservative hegemony.’
      • ‘At the same time we had just emerged from a long period of Conservative government.’
      • ‘Plans for a tidy tip next to a busy park have been criticised by Conservative councillors.’
      • ‘How do we develop a response to the Labour and Conservative assaults on our Home affairs and Taxation polices?’
      • ‘The suggestion has not, however, been welcomed by Conservative headquarters.’
      • ‘If he does become Conservative leader or even Prime minister then, yes, that may make a difference.’
      • ‘Vendettas and character assassination have wrecked the last three Conservative leaderships.’
      • ‘The Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties are contesting every seat.’
      • ‘There was no real Conservative tradition in European terms, nor socialism neither.’
      • ‘Labour's voters are more efficiently distributed than Conservative voters.’
      • ‘The Labour Government rigidly stuck to Conservative spending targets in its first two years of office.’
      • ‘After what some would say has been a long gestation period, new Conservative policies have appeared.’
      • ‘The Conservative governments bypassed local authorities in many policy fields.’
      • ‘The blame lies fairly and squarely at the door of this Conservative council.’
      • ‘In the county elections, there was one Conservative gain, which gives them an overall majority of three.’
      • ‘Many of the people who had sent letters of protest and joined the lobby were Conservative voters.’
      • ‘This is all down to a lack of capital expenditure on the railways by success Labour and Conservative governments.’
      • ‘The three MPs said it is official Conservative policy to increase the size of the Army and it would keep the regiment.’
      • ‘An important factor in this was the experience of eighteen years of Conservative government.’
      • ‘The prospect of a Conservative government has provoked a major debate in the corporate media.’
  • 3(of an estimate) purposely low for the sake of caution.

    ‘police placed the value of the haul at a conservative £500,000’
    • ‘A conservative estimate has visitors spending an average of €80 each.’
    • ‘And that, say experts, is a very conservative estimate.’
    • ‘He said it was not possible to say how long the pressure would have lasted: ‘A conservative estimate would be about a minute, maybe two.’’
    • ‘At a conservative estimate, anywhere between three to five million people live inside these protected areas and several millions more around them.’
    • ‘A conservative estimate suggested that mistaken identification contributed to the wrongful conviction of more than 300 people a year in England and Wales.’
    • ‘The price was paid in Latin America in the deaths and disappearance of, at a conservative estimate, around 100,000 people throughout the subcontinent.’
    • ‘However, with conservative estimates putting the figure at almost £40 million, cabinet approval will be required.’
    • ‘A conservative estimate would surely be closer to 60,000.’
    • ‘One conservative estimate put the number of protesters at more than six million people, making it largest ever simultaneous demonstration since the Vietnam War.’
    • ‘It appears this may have been a conservative estimate.’
    • ‘The $2.8 million is a conservative estimate based on records from the House and Senate clerks' offices.’
    • ‘The combat capability of such a servicemen could be compared, even by conservative estimates, to that of a modern section or even platoon.’
    • ‘However, this is a conservative estimate that suggests at most just one in eight of all non-resident accounts opened over the period in question were bogus.’
    • ‘The number of women trafficked for this purpose is unknown, although conservative estimates put the number in the millions.’
    • ‘And, you know, that might be a conservative estimate.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We consider this to be a conservative estimate.’
    • ‘Forty years is a ridiculously conservative estimate, as can now be demonstrated, and it turns out that microfiche's shelf-life is limited too, far more than paper.’
    • ‘The average person moves six times in their lifetime, according to conservative estimates, sometimes losing touch with friends, colleagues and even relatives.’
    • ‘Despite the fact that a conservative estimate for the overall cost of the project is in the region of 40 million both men believe now is the time to make such an investment.’
    low, cautious, understated, unexaggerated, moderate, reasonable
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  • 4(of surgery or medical treatment) intended to control rather than eliminate a condition, with existing tissue preserved as far as possible.

    • ‘Fortunately, conservative treatments such as ice, rest and physical therapy can often relieve symptoms.’
    • ‘With resection procedures and conservative treatment, many limbs were saved, and deaths were avoided.’
    • ‘But they usually respond to conservative treatment and don't need surgery.’
    • ‘For patients who do not respond to conservative treatment, surgery should be considered.’
    • ‘After a trial of conservative treatment, definitive surgical repair is usually required.’
    • ‘Surgeons are traditionalists, and the early experience of our peers has coloured current surgical opinion and slowed the introduction of conservative surgery for the benign parotid lump.’
    • ‘Surgeons need to exhaust conservative treatments before proceeding to surgery and be realistic about the outcome of surgery.’
    • ‘Mild symptoms may be helped by conservative treatments such as pain relievers, physical therapy or a supportive brace.’
    • ‘Continence surgery is indicated when conservative treatment fails or the patient wants definitive treatment.’
    • ‘Early surgery also avoids complications when conservative treatment fails.’
    • ‘The trial randomized 1,033 patients in 27 countries to early surgery or conservative treatment.’
    • ‘This finding has implications for patients with normal or near normal facial function who are advised to undertake conservative observation rather than surgery.’
    • ‘The orthopaedic surgeon continued to use conservative treatment, but the symptoms were no better a year later.’
    • ‘Initial treatment of both conditions is conservative, but when conservative treatment fails, the surgical approach to the two problems differs markedly.’
    • ‘Mammography, bilateral in patients who had had conservative surgery, was scheduled once a year.’
    • ‘If conservative treatment fails, surgery to excise any bone spurs and debridement of the retrocalcaneal bursa may be helpful.’
    • ‘When conservative treatments don't help, surgery may offer relief.’
    • ‘Treatment is usually conservative and involves cortisone injections, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy.’
    • ‘Surgical referral may be indicated after conservative treatment has failed, although the exact timing of surgery should be decided on an individual basis.’
    • ‘The surgical alternatives to medical treatment range from minor conservative procedures to hysterectomy.’


  • 1A person who is averse to change and holds traditional values.

    ‘he remains a conservative in constitutional matters’
    • ‘They saw fascists as more patriotic and determined than traditional conservatives.’
    • ‘The antagonism between conservatives and progressives in Korea has a long history.’
    • ‘Many conservatives expect a Supreme Court justice whose opinions they can predict.’
    • ‘That line seems to be working pretty well now among some of my fellow conservatives.’
    • ‘In liberal mythology it's conservatives and reactionaries who take the simplistic view.’
    • ‘The great failing of conservatives is their tendency to just give up after a few tries.’
    • ‘When divorce came along, the same conservatives argued it would mean an end to the institution.’
    • ‘I have put up here some reasons why conservatives in particular have reason to be thankful today.’
    • ‘It just shows that there is nothing that conservatives can do to please some people.’
    • ‘He could actually win if the turnout is low and led by conservatives who are sticking by him.’
    • ‘So the claim that there are conservatives who believe in some sort of absolute liberty is a total straw man.’
    • ‘On the other side is every strand of opinion from traditional moral conservatives to communists.’
    • ‘We can only hope for the day when liberals stop considering conservatives to be lesser human beings.’
    • ‘She proceeded to lay out her views on a range of issues that rub conservatives raw.’
    • ‘The suggestion was immediately set upon by conservatives who argued it was all exaggerated.’
    • ‘This is not to say that any one group of conservatives are strictly to blame.’
    • ‘There are a lot of conservatives who have held their tongue for the better part of two years.’
    • ‘Once Africa was no longer a site of superpower competition, conservatives largely lost interest as well.’
    • ‘The likely truth is that liberal bias does affect news coverage, but not always in the ways conservatives suspect.’
    • ‘The conservatives approve of my using the old words, but my themes upset them.’
    right-winger, reactionary, rightist, diehard
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  • 2A supporter or member of the Conservative Party of Great Britain or a similar party elsewhere.

    • ‘There has never been a coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.’
    • ‘Every time I go to a gathering of Conservatives I am struck by their refusal to live in the real world.’
    • ‘He points out in his letter that the Conservatives did not wish to form the Executive of the Council.’
    • ‘He also insisted the Conservatives were now ready to form the next government.’
    • ‘Unlike the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives we do not make promises we cannot keep.’
    • ‘Around them stand officials and party workers from the Conservatives and Lib Dems.’
    • ‘Next year the chair will be a Liberal Democrat and the Conservatives will take the deputy chair.’
    • ‘The Liberals and the Conservatives have made the same sort of cuts when they have been in charge.’
    • ‘The letter was also signed by a handful who revealed they had in the past supported the Conservatives.’
    • ‘We know the Labour councillors are opposed to it, so that leaves the Conservatives.’
    • ‘Nor is it right for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to connive with that purpose.’
    • ‘I'd never vote for the Conservatives unless they became a radically different party.’
    • ‘Throughout that period the Conservatives remained a minority party in the Commons.’
    • ‘Now the Conservatives have decided to try a similar approach with their party advertising.’
    • ‘As the middle class has grown in size so also the Conservatives have gained a smaller share of that vote.’
    • ‘The Scottish National Party and Conservatives are expected to oppose the building.’
    • ‘The polls refuse to shift and the Conservatives are seen as a single-issue party.’
    • ‘The Conservatives were second in all five seats with the Liberal Democrats third.’
    • ‘The Conservatives tried it when they were in power, and now New Labour have tried it.’


  • 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’
      • ‘There is something conservative about much of Pixar's output, but when I say conservative, I mean a small "c" conservative.’


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.