c. 1400, monicioun, "warning, instruction given by way of caution," from Old French monition (13c.) and directly from Latin monitionem (nominative monitio) "warning, admonition, reminding," noun of action from past-participle stem of monere "to admonish, warn, advise," from PIE *moneie- "to make think of, remind," suffixed (causative) form of root *men- (1) "to think." With specific meanings in civil and ecclesiastical law.
late 14c., "careful observation of one's surroundings, attention to details and probable consequences" (with a view to choosing the safest course), from Old French circumspection (Modern French circonspection), from Latin circumspectionem (nominative circumspectio) "a looking around; foresight, caution," noun of action from past participle stem of circumspicere "to look around," from circum "around, round about" (see circum-) + specere "to look" (from PIE root *spek- "to observe").
late 14c., amonicioun "reminding, instruction," from Old French amonicion "admonition, exhortation," from Latin admonitionem (nominative admonitio) "a suggestion, a reminding; an admonition," noun of action from past-participle stem of admonere "to advise, warn" (see admonish).
The -d- was restored in French, then (17c.) in English. The meaning "caution or warning about future conduct based on past failures" is by early 15c.
early 15c., enquery, "a judicial examination of facts to determine truth;" mid-15c. in general sense "attempt to learn something, act or fact of inquiring," probably an Anglo-French noun developed from enqueren "to inquire" (see inquire). Respelled from mid-16c. to conform to Latin.
There is one word of caution, however, to be given to those who renounce inquiry; it is that they cannot retain the right to condemn inquirers. [Benjamin Jowett, "On the Interpretation of Scripture," in "Essays and Reviews," 1860]
late 14c., "likely, reasonable, plausible, having more evidence for than against," from Old French probable "provable, demonstrable" (14c.), from Latin probabilis "worthy of approval, pleasing, agreeable, acceptable; provable, that may be assumed to be believed, credible," from probare "to try, to test" (see prove). As a legal term, probable cause "reasonable cause or grounds" is attested from 1670s.
Probable cause (used with reference to criminal prosecutions), such a state of facts and circumstances as would lead a man of ordinary caution and prudence, acting conscientiously, impartially, reasonably, and without prejudice, upon the facts within his knowledge, to believe that the person accused is guilty. [Century Dictionary]
"knowing, wise," 1630s, from a Scottish and northern English formation from can (v.1) in its sense of "know how to," + -y (2). A doublet of cunning that flowered into distinct senses in Scottish English. In the glossary to Scott's "Heart of Mid-Lothian" (1818) uncanny is defined as "dangerous," while canny, as used in the tale, is defined as "skilful, prudent, lucky ; in a superstitious sense, good-conditioned, and safe to deal with ; trustworthy ; quiet." Cannily is "gently" and canny moment is "an opportune or happy time."
"Knowing," hence, from 18c., "careful, skillful, clever," also "frugal, thrifty," and, from early 19c. (perhaps via Scott's novels) "cautious, wary, shrewd." Often used superciliously of Scots by their southern neighbors (and their American cousins).
The Canny Scot is so well known as scarcely to require description. He carries caution, cunning, and selfishness to excess. Deceitful when a purpose is to be accomplished, he is not habitually deceitful. One thing he never loses sight of—his own interest. But of his own interest he is not the most enlightened judge. ["The Natural History of Scotsmen," in The Argosy, December 1865]
Related: Cannily; canniness.
late 14c., conservatyf, "tending to preserve or protect, preservative, having the power to keep whole or safe," from Old French conservatif, from Medieval Latin conservativus, from Latin conservatus, past participle of conservare "to keep, preserve, keep intact, guard," from assimilated form of com-, here perhaps an intensive prefix (see com-), + servare "keep watch, maintain" (from PIE root *ser- (1) "to protect").
From 1840 in the general sense "disposed to retain and maintain what is established, opposed to innovation and change," or, in a negative sense "opposed to progress."
As a modern political tradition, "antagonistic to change in the institutions of a country," often especially "opposed to changes toward pure democracy," conservatism traces to Edmund Burke's opposition to the French Revolution (1790), but the word conservative is not found in his writing. It was coined by his French disciples (such as Chateaubriand, who titled his journal defending clerical and political restoration "Le Conservateur").
Conservative as the name of a British political faction first appeared in an 1830 issue of the "Quarterly Review," in an unsigned article sometimes attributed to John Wilson Croker. It replaced Tory (q.v.) by 1843, reflecting both a change from the pejorative name (in use for 150 years) and repudiation of some reactionary policies.
Strictly speaking, conservatism is not a political system, and certainly not an ideology. ... Instead, conservatism is a way of looking at the civil social order. ... Unlike socialism, anarchism, and even liberalism, then, conservatism offers no universal pattern of politics for adoption everywhere. On the contrary, conservatives reason that social institutions always must differ considerably from nation to nation, since any land's politics must be the product of that country's dominant religion, ancient customs, and historical experience. [Russell Kirk, "What is Conservatism," introduction to "The Portable Conservative Reader," 1982]
Phrases such as conservative estimate (1874), in which it means "characterized by caution, deliberately low," make no sense etymologically. Related: Conservatively; conservativeness.