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From Middle English conspiracie, from Anglo-Norman conspiracie, from Latin cōnspīrātiō. Doublet of conspiration.


  • IPA(key): /kənˈspɪɹəsi/
  • (file)


conspiracy (countable and uncountable, plural conspiracies)

  1. An agreement or arrangement between multiple parties to do something harmful, immoral or subversive; an instance of collusion.
    • 1834, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter IV, in Francesca Carrara. [], volume III, London: Richard Bentley, [], (successor to Henry Colburn), →OCLC, page 23:
      Conspiracies, like all other exercises of human ingenuity, are of very different kinds. The gloomy plots arranged in old Italian halls...
    • 1993, Christopher Hitchens, For the Sake of Argument:
      And you may have noticed that those who are too quick to shout 'conspiracy theorist' are equally swift, when consequences for authority and consensus impend, to look serious and say 'It's more complicated than that.' These have become standard damage-control reflexes.
    • 2007, John Gray, Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia:
      Modern political religions may reject Christianity, but they cannot do without demonology. The Jacobins, the Bolsheviks and the Nazis all believed in vast conspiracies against them, as do radical Islamists today. It is never the flaws of human nature that stand in the way of Utopia. It is the workings of evil forces.
  2. (law) An agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future.
  3. (loosely) A secret agreement to do something.
    • 1863 May 30, “Lord Dudley and Mr. Lumley”, in The Musical World, volume 41, number 22, page 339:
      The former programme of the entertainments, which were to result from this generous conspiracy to assist a man whom fortune had buffeted, was eagerly looked for, not only for the reunion of old favorites that it promised to bring about, but out of sympathy for the sentiment which has prompted this graceful act of kindness.
    • 1900, Luis Coloma, Currita, Countess of Albornoz, page 245:
      On another occasion, some months later, when Currita's birthday, the 10th of October, and feast of St. Francis Borgia, was approaching, the two children were plotting together a conspiracy to give their mother a surprise.
    • 1916 August 10, “Ernest schelling Given A Surprise Party”, in Musical Courier and Review of Recorded Music, volume 73, page 27:
      The people whom he visited were members of the surprise party conspiracy, and kept the pianist involved in a heated discussion until they were sure that the surprise was ready for him.
    • 2002, Duane Ramsey, Reunion in the Rockies, page 264:
      When Mike and his family showed up at nearly the same time, Dan suspected a conspiracy among his mother, brother and sister. He was not surprised to learn that his mother had concocted the plan to get the whole family together again.
    • 2003, Penelope S. Tzougros, Wealthy Choices: The Seven Competencies of Financial Success, page 234:
      Have you been part of a surprise party conspiracy or plotted a delightful treat for someone you love?
    • 2004 December 7, Thomas Kinkade, A New Leaf: A Cape Light Novel, Penguin, →ISBN, page 252:
      [] Molly said good-bye and left Emily's office. She had the strangest feeling that Emily and Betty were in this together somehow, a conspiracy to help her out, whether she liked it or not. Jessica might even be in on it, too, she thought vaguely. No, that's just plain silly. I'm being paranoid about people being too nice to me and treating me so respectfully []
    • 2005, Robert Henry Jr. Wright, Ten Percent Marriage, page 345:
      Nina nods her understanding and joins the conspiracy to surprise Victoria.
    • 2005, Neal Sillars, A Conspiracy of Ravens, page 182:
      Sandy had still not arrived, as he was charged with the task of getting his father to the pub for the surprise party. His plan was to offer his parents the opportunity of popping in for a quick pint on the way back from the supermarket in Mallaig. His mother, of course, was in on the conspiracy and had already left a change of clothes in a room at the hotel.
    • 2012, Anna Denysovna, The Death Trains of Thera, page 62:
      With John Mason Junior's reputation having preceded him the employees assigned to create the President's Gardens happily agreed on a conspiracy of silence.
    • 2011, Nora Huppert, Home Without a Homeland, page 285:
      Ruth and Steven journeyed from Sydney and we all enjoyed the pre-party conspiracy as much as seeing Peter's happy surprise when so many people arrived to wish him well .
    • 2012, Lindy Schneider, “Gramma's Christmas Store”, in Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Amy Newmark, editor, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas:
      The four kids giggled as they filed out the door and climbed into her car. It was obvious that this was a conspiracy!
    • 2021, Anthony Holden, Based on a True Story:
      Later that summer, back in London, poker was also the backdrop for Alvarez's own sixtieth birthday, for which his beloved wife Anne had organised a surprise party. My role in the conspiracy was to get Al out of the house by 6 p.m. – a bit early to head to our poker club in central London, but easily enough done; the problem was going to be getting him back home again as early as 8.
    • 2023, Lloyd C. Douglas, Time to Remember, page 101:
      This benevolent conspiracy involved an invitation to the entire family of the parsonage for evening dinner at one of their parishioners' homes.
  4. (loosely) An agreement to work together to bring something about; an act or instance of conspiring.
    • 1948 [c. 1530], Thomas Starkey, A Dialogue Between Reginald Pole & Thomas Lupset:
      But this I call civil life [] living [together] in good and politic order, one ever ready to do good to another, and as it were conspiring [together] in all virtue and honesty. [] You said right now that this civil life was a politic order and, as it were, a conspiracy in honesty and virtue, []
    • 2007, Barbara Sinor, Gifts from the Child Within, page 188:
      You may even find yourself using your new awareness and insight to assist others in their recovery process. A conspiracy to enable others joins the minds of all who seek faces of recovery.
    • 2010 June 21, Hugh B. Price, Mobilizing the Community to Help Students Succeed, ASCD, →ISBN, page 128:
      By teaming up, local educators and community leaders can forge a potent, positive conspiracy to help our children to strive for success in school and ultimately in life.
    • 2013, Leigh Thompson, Creative Conspiracy: The New Rules of Breakthrough Collaboration, page 1:
      When collaboration is conscious, planned, and shared with others, excitement builds and a conspiracy develops.
    • 2021, Dana Compton McCullough, Mandy Hoffen and a Conspiracy to Resurrect Life and Social Justice in Science Curriculum With Henrietta Lacks:
      Retelling stories can provide a time of reflection, but the idea is to create a conspiracy to open up new ways of thinking in order to change education.
  5. (rare) A group of ravens.
  6. (rare) A group of lemurs.
    • 2018 February 8, Jeffrey T. Laitman, “The Search for the Intersection of Form and Function: Looking for Clues into What Has Determined How, Why, and When Animals Came to Move the Way They Do”, in The Anatomical Record, volume 301, number 3, →DOI:
      Indeed, as I sat, forlorn, never having found my particular conspiracy of lemurs (how about that for a name for a group of lemurs? The name lemur itself comes from the Latin for “spirits of the dead”) …
    • 2018 November 9, “Red alert: New lemurs join zoo conspiracy”, in Oregon Zoo[1], retrieved November 5, 2019:
      The Oregon Zoo welcomed two red-ruffed lemurs this week, bringing the total number in the conspiracy — the name for a group of lemurs — to seven.
  7. (linguistics) A situation in which different phonological or grammatical rules lead to similar or related outcomes.
    • 2014, Jerzy Rubach, “Soft labial conspiracy in Kurpian”, in Journal of Linguistics[2], volume 50, number 1:
      That is, further exploration of phonological systems of various languages may turn up evidence motivating conspiracies that have been regarded thus far as impossible. [] This study of labial palatalization conspiracy is a contribution to the 'too many solutions'/'too few data' problem.
  8. (by ellipsis) A conspiracy theory; a hypothesis alleging conspiracy.
    • 2008, Edward Snajdr, Nature Protests: The End of Ecology in Slovakia, University of Washington Press, →ISBN, page 176:
      Rather than propagating conspiracies about the evils of wealthy Jewry, they beat up poor Roma in back alleys.
    • 2018, Rita Santos, The Deep State, Greenhaven Publishing, →ISBN, page 99:
      The internet helps spread conspiracies, but it can also be used to verify claims made by politicians and the media.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



conspiracy (third-person singular simple present conspiracies, present participle conspiracying, simple past and past participle conspiracied)

  1. (rare, proscribed) To conspire.
    • 2007, Brian Francis Slattery, Spaceman Blues: A Love Song, page 45:
      He knew I would come for him when I discovered what he did, so he, he conspiracied to put me in prison.
    • 2019, Vincent Trigili, Rise of the Goblin King:
      “What are you two conspiracying about up here?” asked Kira, walking up next to me.
    • 2019 November 21, Alex Henderson, “The looney CrowdStrike conspiracy claims debunked by Fiona Hill during her bombshell impeachment testimony”, in AlterNet:
      Promoters of the CrowdStrike theory often claim that CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch is Ukrainian, which they see as “proof” of his willingness to conspiracy with the Ukrainian government and Democrats against Putin and Trump in 2016.

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