I know that "conservatism" is the more commonly used term, but is "conservativism" a less preferred, but legitimate word, or just a misspelling?

www.dictionary.com has "conservativism", but I'm not sure I view them as a credible source.

4 Answers 4


Merriam-Webster does not list conservativism, but Wiktionary does:


  1. Alternative form of conservatism.

Conservativism is surely not a typo (as, say, consrvetism would be). It is legitimately formed from the adjective conservative and the suffix -ism. However, as you say yourself, conservatism is the much more commonly used term. The British National Corpus has 474 cites for conservatism, but only 3 for conservativism.

That being said, there are languages (e.g. German) in which the equivalent of conservativism (Konservativismus) is pretty much as common as the equivalent of conservatism (Konservatismus).

  • 3
    Just to add to your answer: the OED lists this as an alternative spelling: oed.com/view/Entry/39572#eid8588960, although it records conservatism as being the older word.
    – Jascol
    Jul 16, 2015 at 13:13
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    I think OED beats wiktionary - suggest the answer be updated as @jascol suggests. Jul 28, 2015 at 10:09

Merriam-Webster does not contain conservativism, and I'd say that's a pretty credible source.

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    OED does, and I'd say that's a pretty credible source. Jul 16, 2015 at 21:04
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    The fact that a dictionary does not list some word should never be taken as some kind of claim by the dictionary-makers that said word does not exist.
    – herisson
    Feb 19, 2016 at 21:11

I agree with the post that says that conservatism is a newer development. Whenever I hear it it grates on my ears. I would go with the OED every time.

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    I'm confused. If you would "go with the OED every time," then why don't you believe the OED when it says that conservatism appears to be slightly older than conservativism? Did you make a typo?
    – herisson
    Dec 9, 2015 at 16:52

The English dictionary in Microsoft's 2013 Office suite does not question conservativism.

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    It's good to know that Microsoft does not question conservativism.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 16, 2015 at 12:32
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    I don't think that is an authoritative source on this site. Jul 16, 2015 at 15:13
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    No offense @robocliff but I think this source is even less reputable than the questioned-by-OP dictionary.com!
    – Caleb
    Jul 16, 2015 at 17:25

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