sub·​ver·​sion | \səb-ˈvər-zhən, -shən\

Definition of subversion 

1 : the act of subverting : the state of being subverted especially : a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working secretly from within

2 obsolete : a cause of overthrow or destruction

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Other Words from subversion

subversionary \səb-​ˈvər-​zhə-​ˌner-​ē, -​shə-​ \ adjective
subversive \səb-​ˈvər-​siv, -​ziv \ adjective or noun
subversively adverb
subversiveness noun

Did You Know?

Subversion is literally the "turning over" of something. In the 1950s and '60s, many people worried about communist subversion of the U.S. government, though they often saw subversive activities where none existed. Nondemocratic governments often claim that anyone who disagrees with them or joins a demonstration is a subversive. But subversion isn't always quite so serious a matter; when words like weekend, sandwich, job, *and *camping started being used by the French, for example, some of them began claiming that America was subverting their language.

Examples of subversion in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Yet such flat and unhurried beginnings are subversions concealing a powerful slyness. New York Times, "8 New Books We Recommend This Week," 24 May 2018 While the Saudis could buy arms from the Russians or Chinese if Congress balks, the U.S. can’t afford an unstable Kingdom that would be vulnerable to Iranian or Sunni radical subversion. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Royal Saudi Mess," 12 Oct. 2018 The best The Good Cop can do in terms of existing in the current cultural moment is indulge in occasional subversion by way of its guest stars. Karen Han, Vox, "Josh Groban and Tony Danza’s appealing odd-couple dynamic can’t quite save The Good Cop," 21 Sep. 2018 The suit has a long and storied history, one that includes political subversion and violent repression. Mariana Gonzalez, Teen Vogue, "How the Zoot Suit Became a Symbol of Resistance for Mexican-American People," 21 Sep. 2018 Mr Haidt divides political morality into pairs of opposing instincts: loyalty and betrayal, authority and subversion, liberty and oppression, sanctity and degradation, care and harm, fairness and cheating. The Economist, "The L wordWho is a Democrat?," 12 July 2018 Here's a look at the three Americans, who were held by North Korea for alleged subversion, espionage and other unspecified hostile acts. Los Angeles Times Staff Reporting,, "A look at the 3 Americans released by North Korea," 9 May 2018 Meanwhile, a court sentenced a prominent dissident, Qin Yongmin, to 13 years in prison for subversion. The Economist, "Politics this week," 12 July 2018 China sentenced Liu Xiaobo in 2009 to 11 years' imprisonment on charges of inciting subversion of state power. Fox News, "The Latest: Rights groups cautiously hail Liu Xia departure," 10 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'subversion.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of subversion

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for subversion

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin subversion-, subversio, from Latin subvertere

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Last Updated

30 Nov 2018

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The first known use of subversion was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for subversion


sub·​ver·​sion | \səb-ˈvər-zhən \

Legal Definition of subversion 

: a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working from within also : the crime of committing acts in furtherance of such an attempt

Other Words from subversion

subversionary \-​zhə-​ˌner-​ē \ adjective
subversive \-​ˈvər-​siv \ adjective or noun
subversively adverb
subversiveness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on subversion

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with subversion

Spanish Central: Translation of subversion

Nglish: Translation of subversion for Spanish Speakers

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