1890, "tendency or need to conform" to some group standard, from conform + -ism. In religion, from c. 1902. In geology from c. 1912. Modern, general sociological sense (social conformism) popularized from c. 1948.
mid-14c., confourmen, "be obedient (to God), comply," from Old French conformer "conform (to), agree (to), make or be similar, be agreeable" (13c.) and directly from Latin conformare "to fashion, to form, to shape; educate; modify," from assimilated form of com "together" (see con-) + formare "to form" (see form (v.)).
Meaning "to make of the same form or character; bring into harmony, make agreeable," and intransitive sense of "act in accordance with an example" are from late 14c. Sense of "to comply with the usages of the Church of England" is from 1610s; hence conformist (1630s), opposed to non-conformist or dissenter. Related: Conformance; conformed; conforming.
word-forming element making nouns implying a practice, system, doctrine, etc., from French -isme or directly from Latin -isma, -ismus (source also of Italian, Spanish -ismo, Dutch, German -ismus), from Greek -ismos, noun ending signifying the practice or teaching of a thing, from the stem of verbs in -izein, a verb-forming element denoting the doing of the noun or adjective to which it is attached. For distinction of use, see -ity. The related Greek suffix -isma(t)- affects some forms.