Definition of conservative in US English:



  • 1Holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Kenyan homes are traditionally conservative and strictly patriarchal.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Not until the second half of the nineteenth century did the valuation of scientific knowledge come into conflict with more conservative religious values.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘His parents weren't party-political, but he was certainly brought up with traditionally conservative values.’
    • ‘An orchestrated return to traditional family values has pressured conservative men to explicitly re-valorize women who accept traditional roles.’
    • ‘Will it mean that the tide of traditional patriarchal values, of conservative religiosity, will become irreversible?’
    • ‘While her friends accept the affair, she must hide it from her tradition-bound parents and religiously conservative older brother.’
    • ‘We hear a lot about conservative values in the country.’
    • ‘Betty may only be a character, but she's part of a much larger trend toward conservative values and traditional female roles.’
    • ‘This modernization was predicated on defense, rather than destruction, of traditional and conservative Spanish Catholic religious culture.’
    • ‘The rapid rise of the green movement is an example of this, because it appeals to traditional conservative values.’
    • ‘Some activists approach these issues from the perspective of religious freedom and conservative values.’
    • ‘These prevalent conservative values have complicated the kingdom's relations with its main foreign ally - the United States.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Should I teach them secular values or conservative religious ones?’
    • ‘This contrasts with a stronger assertion of identity and values among conservative church bodies.’
    traditionalist, traditional, conventional, orthodox, stable, old-fashioned, dyed-in-the-wool, unchanging, hidebound
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of dress or taste) sober and conventional.
      ‘a conservative suit’
      • ‘She was dressed in a conservative black suit and pearls.’
      • ‘The many suits and ties and other conservative dress worn by the crowd yesterday reflected the upscale membership of much of the organisation.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Otherwise, he has dressed in a conservative gray suit, with a crisp white shirt and perfectly creased trousers.’
      • ‘It also is the least atonal-sounding movement and will likely appeal even to those of fairly conservative tastes.’
      • ‘The best advice I was always given by peers was to dress in a conservative suit with modest accessories at the interview.’
      • ‘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 real viewers are likely to be over 50, married and of broadly conservative tastes.’
      • ‘The hectic design would hardly have conformed with Philip's conservative taste.’
      • ‘The traditional range is still being sold, particularly into America where tastes are more conservative.’
      • ‘For women, the look is conservative - ladylike suits, sophisticated pantsuits, subtle dark dresses.’
      • ‘Since newcomers established colonies in imitation of their homelands, their taste was inherently conservative, broadening only with time and travel.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The dress was very conservative, but it accentuated my curves.’
      • ‘He really does look as if a men's conservative dress shop is the only place that would hire him.’
      • ‘The rather conservative dress in question is on the left as you can see.’
      • ‘The students' conservative dress also belies the fact that they are, like they were in my day, by and large liberal in outlook.’
      • ‘She was wearing a conservative peach dress suit and low-heeled white shoes.’
      • ‘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
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (of an estimate) purposely low for the sake of caution.
      ‘the film was not cheap—$30,000 is a conservative estimate’
      • ‘We consider this to be a conservative estimate.’
      • ‘The combat capability of such a servicemen could be compared, even by conservative estimates, to that of a modern section or even platoon.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The number of women trafficked for this purpose is unknown, although conservative estimates put the number in the millions.’
      • ‘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 price was paid in Latin America in the deaths and disappearance of, at a conservative estimate, around 100,000 people throughout the subcontinent.’
      • ‘A conservative estimate would surely be closer to 60,000.’
      • ‘And that, say experts, is a very conservative estimate.’
      • ‘A conservative estimate suggested that mistaken identification contributed to the wrongful conviction of more than 300 people a year in England and Wales.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘One conservative estimate put the number of protesters at more than six million people, making it largest ever simultaneous demonstration since the Vietnam War.’
      • ‘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 has visitors spending an average of €80 each.’
      • ‘It appears this may have been a conservative estimate.’
      • ‘The average person moves six times in their lifetime, according to conservative estimates, sometimes losing touch with friends, colleagues and even relatives.’
      • ‘However, with conservative estimates putting the figure at almost £40 million, cabinet approval will be required.’
      • ‘The $2.8 million is a conservative estimate based on records from the House and Senate clerks' offices.’
      • ‘And, you know, that might be a conservative estimate.’
      low, cautious, understated, unexaggerated, moderate, reasonable
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 (of surgery or medical treatment) intended to control rather than eliminate a condition, with existing tissue preserved as far as possible.
      • ‘This finding has implications for patients with normal or near normal facial function who are advised to undertake conservative observation rather than surgery.’
      • ‘With resection procedures and conservative treatment, many limbs were saved, and deaths were avoided.’
      • ‘Early surgery also avoids complications when conservative treatment fails.’
      • ‘The surgical alternatives to medical treatment range from minor conservative procedures to hysterectomy.’
      • ‘If conservative treatment fails, surgery to excise any bone spurs and debridement of the retrocalcaneal bursa may be helpful.’
      • ‘The orthopaedic surgeon continued to use conservative treatment, but the symptoms were no better a year later.’
      • ‘Mammography, bilateral in patients who had had conservative surgery, was scheduled once a year.’
      • ‘For patients who do not respond to conservative treatment, surgery should be considered.’
      • ‘Surgeons need to exhaust conservative treatments before proceeding to surgery and be realistic about the outcome of surgery.’
      • ‘Continence surgery is indicated when conservative treatment fails or the patient wants definitive treatment.’
      • ‘Treatment is usually conservative and involves cortisone injections, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy.’
      • ‘But they usually respond to conservative treatment and don't need surgery.’
      • ‘Initial treatment of both conditions is conservative, but when conservative treatment fails, the surgical approach to the two problems differs markedly.’
      • ‘Mild symptoms may be helped by conservative treatments such as pain relievers, physical therapy or a supportive brace.’
      • ‘When conservative treatments don't help, surgery may offer relief.’
      • ‘The trial randomized 1,033 patients in 27 countries to early surgery or conservative treatment.’
      • ‘After a trial of conservative treatment, definitive surgical repair is usually required.’
      • ‘Fortunately, conservative treatments such as ice, rest and physical therapy can often relieve symptoms.’
      • ‘Surgical referral may be indicated after conservative treatment has failed, although the exact timing of surgery should be decided on an individual basis.’
      • ‘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.’
    4. 1.4 Relating to the Conservative Party of Great Britain or a similar party in another country.
      • ‘The blame lies fairly and squarely at the door of this Conservative council.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘At the same time we had just emerged from a long period of Conservative government.’
      • ‘The Labour Government rigidly stuck to Conservative spending targets in its first two years of office.’
      • ‘The Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties are contesting every seat.’
      • ‘There was no real Conservative tradition in European terms, nor socialism neither.’
      • ‘Many of the people who had sent letters of protest and joined the lobby were Conservative voters.’
      • ‘Labour's voters are more efficiently distributed than Conservative voters.’
      • ‘The suggestion has not, however, been welcomed by Conservative headquarters.’
      • ‘Vendettas and character assassination have wrecked the last three Conservative leaderships.’
      • ‘An important factor in this was the experience of eighteen years of Conservative government.’
      • ‘The three MPs said it is official Conservative policy to increase the size of the Army and it would keep the regiment.’
      • ‘This is all down to a lack of capital expenditure on the railways by success Labour and Conservative governments.’
      • ‘If Labour wins its expected second landslide it will mark the end of a century of Conservative hegemony.’
      • ‘In the county elections, there was one Conservative gain, which gives them an overall majority of three.’
      • ‘The prospect of a Conservative government has provoked a major debate in the corporate media.’
      • ‘If he does become Conservative leader or even Prime minister then, yes, that may make a difference.’


  • 1A person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.

    • ‘We can only hope for the day when liberals stop considering conservatives to be lesser human beings.’
    • ‘The antagonism between conservatives and progressives in Korea has a long history.’
    • ‘In liberal mythology it's conservatives and reactionaries who take the simplistic view.’
    • ‘This is not to say that any one group of conservatives are strictly to blame.’
    • ‘I have put up here some reasons why conservatives in particular have reason to be thankful today.’
    • ‘She proceeded to lay out her views on a range of issues that rub conservatives raw.’
    • ‘There are a lot of conservatives who have held their tongue for the better part of two years.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The suggestion was immediately set upon by conservatives who argued it was all exaggerated.’
    • ‘The conservatives approve of my using the old words, but my themes upset them.’
    • ‘They saw fascists as more patriotic and determined than traditional conservatives.’
    • ‘The great failing of conservatives is their tendency to just give up after a few tries.’
    • ‘Once Africa was no longer a site of superpower competition, conservatives largely lost interest as well.’
    • ‘So the claim that there are conservatives who believe in some sort of absolute liberty is a total straw man.’
    • ‘When divorce came along, the same conservatives argued it would mean an end to the institution.’
    • ‘On the other side is every strand of opinion from traditional moral conservatives to communists.’
    • ‘The likely truth is that liberal bias does affect news coverage, but not always in the ways conservatives suspect.’
    right-winger, reactionary, rightist, diehard
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A supporter or member of the Conservative Party of Great Britain or a similar party in another country.
      • ‘As the middle class has grown in size so also the Conservatives have gained a smaller share of that vote.’
      • ‘The Conservatives tried it when they were in power, and now New Labour have tried it.’
      • ‘The polls refuse to shift and the Conservatives are seen as a single-issue party.’
      • ‘Throughout that period the Conservatives remained a minority party in the Commons.’
      • ‘He points out in his letter that the Conservatives did not wish to form the Executive of the Council.’
      • ‘Nor is it right for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to connive with that purpose.’
      • ‘Now the Conservatives have decided to try a similar approach with their party advertising.’
      • ‘Around them stand officials and party workers from the Conservatives and Lib Dems.’
      • ‘The Conservatives were second in all five seats with the Liberal Democrats third.’
      • ‘I'd never vote for the Conservatives unless they became a radically different party.’
      • ‘The Liberals and the Conservatives have made the same sort of cuts when they have been in charge.’
      • ‘He also insisted the Conservatives were now ready to form the next government.’
      • ‘Every time I go to a gathering of Conservatives I am struck by their refusal to live in the real world.’
      • ‘The letter was also signed by a handful who revealed they had in the past supported the Conservatives.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We know the Labour councillors are opposed to it, so that leaves the Conservatives.’
      • ‘Next year the chair will be a Liberal Democrat and the Conservatives will take the deputy chair.’
      • ‘Unlike the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives we do not make promises we cannot keep.’


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.