Printable Version
Pronunciation: kên-sêr-vê-tiv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. Favoring traditional values, reluctant to change or support change. 2. Moderate, cautious, not risky, underestimated, as a conservative estimate. 3. Not extravagant, modern, or flashy, as a conservative suit.

Notes: Like its antonym, liberal, this adjective may be used as a noun. A conservative is someone who adheres to the first definition above, usually a member of the Republican Party in the US and the Conservative Party elsewhere. The adverb for this word is conservatively and, again like liberal, it offers two nouns: conservatism for the political conviction and conservativeness for the other meanings.

In Play: A true conservative likes things the way they are. That notorious liberal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, once said, "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." However, this word has many more meanings than the political one: "Despite the conservative outfit she wore, Sally Forth had been rather liberal in applying cosmetics to her face."

Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin conservativus "preserving, maintaining" from conservare "to preserve, maintain". The Latin verb is made up of con- "(together) with" + servare "to keep, protect". Some still debate whether servare comes from servus "slave", a word borrowed from Etruscan, possibly along with some slaves who spoke that long lost language. While some slaves did serve as guardians of their masters' property, it is difficult to think of a class of people considered servile as protectors. The phonological similarity is very striking, however, and we can see a semantic path from servants to protectors to preservation.

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!