sleeper cell


: a terrorist cell whose members work under cover in an area until sent into action

Examples of sleeper cell in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web America's intense fear of terrorism after the 9/11 attacks landed hard on the shoulders of Hamid Hayat, whose California upbringing was shattered when he was accused of being part of a terrorist sleeper cell. Fifth & Mission Podcast, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 Mar. 2022 Authorities never found a terrorist sleeper cell in Lodi. Deepa Fernandes, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Sep. 2021 The idea is that Valentina, working for HYDRA, a Russian sleeper cell or some other entity, is essentially the anti-Phil Coulson, assembling a team of potential foils for what’s left of the Avengers. Paul Tassi, Forbes, 17 Apr. 2021 Now American and Israeli officials say the operation was the work of Iran, whose intelligence service activated a sleeper cell in Addis Ababa last fall with orders to gather intelligence also on the embassies of the United States and Israel. New York Times, 15 Feb. 2021 There was no claim of responsibility by the Islamic State, which was largely defeated in Iraq in 2017 but still maintains sleeper cells to target Iraqi forces. Washington Post, 28 Apr. 2020 Their accounts offer a rare glimpse into the world of Islamic State’s sleeper cells, which lie at the heart of its efforts to reassert its influence in the cities from which it’s been driven out. Washington Post, 24 Dec. 2019 Still, extremist sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria and are believed to be responsible for targeted killings against local officials and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces. Calvin Woodward, Fortune, 13 Jan. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sleeper cell.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1968, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sleeper cell was in 1968

Dictionary Entries Near sleeper cell

Cite this Entry

“Sleeper cell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!