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Broad changes have conspired to make many adults feel stressed at home and work.

I have searched the word in Cambridge Dictionary while I can't match its meaning to the word 'conspired' in the sentence above.

to plan secretly with other people to do something bad, illegal, or against someone's wishes:

  • [ + to infinitive ] He felt that his colleagues were conspiring together to remove him from his job.
  • As girls, the sisters used to conspire with each other against their brother.
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4 Answers 4

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Merriam-Webster says this:

2 : to act in harmony toward a common end
// Circumstances conspired to defeat his efforts.

In this sense, there is no actual conspiracy, but an observed effect similar to a conspiracy.

In your example, it means, the combined effect of the broad changes has been to make many adults feel stressed.

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  • @Jie This is the best answer; it should also be noted that many words move from metaphor to literal meanings. So, there is no actual conspiracy (which from the Latin means 'to breathe together') where people are secretly working together, but like an actual conspiracy, the factors that caused stress worked together. This is an example of anthropomorphism.
    – J D
    Jun 8 at 14:57
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    @JD umm, personfication
    – mcalex
    Jun 8 at 16:25
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    Possibly related: perfect storm
    – Bohemian
    Jun 8 at 21:46
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – gotube
    Jun 9 at 5:23
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The use of "conspired" in your sentence is figurative, that the broad changes are "planning secretly together to do something" to make adults feel stressed at home and work. You can simply view this sentence as:

broad changes -> cause adults to feel stressed

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This use of "conspired" contains a subtle humorous meaning, familiar to native speakers but so familiar it wouldn't even elicit a laugh--we know that these "broad changes" are independent and likely unrelated events, not humans that would participate in an actual conspiracy. The implication is that the confluence of these effects is improbable enough that it creates the illusion of a coordinated plan.

It's a little like saying "the wind is trying to push me down." You attribute volition to it, while knowing it's not sentient.

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This is a somewhat old-fashioned and obscure sense of the word:

Neutral or good sense of "to contribute jointly to a certain result"

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    I'm not sure it's particularly obscure. The second listing on Lexico, "[with infinitive] (of events or circumstances) seem to be working together to bring about a particular negative result" , suggests it's not even figurative.
    – traktor
    Jun 8 at 4:22

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