sub·​ver·​sion | \ səb-ˈvər-zhən How to pronounce subversion (audio) , -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 How to pronounce subversionary (audio) , -​shə-​ \ adjective
subversive \ səb-​ˈvər-​siv How to pronounce subversive (audio) , -​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

George Patton, led a march down Pennsylvania Avenue to put down what MacArthur later described as subversion. Ronald J. Hansen, azcentral, "As the GI Bill turns 75, Arizona's Sen. Ernest McFarland is remembered for key role," 21 June 2019 But a security bill under consideration at the time would have put in place life imprisonment for subversion, treason, sedition and other offences against the state, creating fears that the city’s unique status was under attack. Tripti Lahiri, Quartz, "Protesters forced Hong Kong to postpone action on a hated extradition bill," 12 June 2019 One result is the subversion of American strategic interests through bilateral deals that favor the financial interests of their ruling elites. Daniel Benjamin, The New York Review of Books, "Reckless in Riyadh," 30 May 2019 The bill could have seen anyone convicted of treason, sedition, secession or subversion against China jailed for life, and -- like Sunday's protest -- attracted huge opposition from many sectors of Hong Kong. James Griffiths, CNN, "Hong Kong's protest movement was on life support. Then the government revived it," 10 June 2019 To put it in perspective, Sunday’s march drew twice as many as the 2003 demonstration that successfully derailed an earlier proposed law on treason, sedition and subversion. William Mcgurn, WSJ, "China’s Million New Dissidents," 10 June 2019 On Monday, April 15, Betsey Johnson will host an archive sale on her website of more than 60 items, priced reasonably from $58 to $198, that will bring the joy and subversion of the camp sensibility into your wardrobe. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Betsey Johnson Is Opening Up Her Archive for a Massive Sale," 12 Apr. 2019 But if red has long been the color of revolution, a kind of emblem of a confident lipstick-wearer, then the color pink seems to be having its own moment of subversion. Jessica Bennett, Vogue, "The New, Subtly Subversive Power of Pink Lipstick," 19 Mar. 2019 But Boygenius might be even more of a subversion of genius than gender. Bridget Read, Vogue, "A Brief Oral History of Boygenius," 31 Oct. 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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Statistics for subversion

Last Updated

29 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for subversion

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 How to pronounce subversion (audio) \

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 How to pronounce subversionary (audio) \ adjective
subversive \ -​ˈvər-​siv How to pronounce subversive (audio) \ 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

Comments on subversion

What made you want to look up subversion? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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