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

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 Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang was sentenced to 4½ years in prison on the charge of subversion of state power Monday, more than three years after he was detained in a sweeping crackdown on the legal profession. Dake Kang, The Seattle Times, "Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer sentenced to 4½ years," 28 Jan. 2019 But even setting aside its strides for onscreen representation, Crazy Rich Asians also succeeds as both a celebration and subtle subversion of the romantic comedy. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Crazy Rich Asians is a dazzling, sumptuous success," 18 Aug. 2018 In 1950 Marcantonio cast the only vote in the House against a bill to aid countries resisting communist subversion and one of just two votes against tightening laws against espionage. David Greenberg, WSJ, "Socialists Are No Strangers to Congress," 3 Jan. 2019 The Deadpool version of the story is an extreme exaggeration, and just one of many gags that’s reaching for subversion by making light of the most serious subjects the screenwriters can find. Noah Berlatsky, The Verge, "Daredevil’s ‘suffering makes a man’ trope is common, familiar, and bad for everyone," 24 Oct. 2018 Several received lengthy sentences for subversion of state power while a few still await sentencing. Fox News, "China expels German student who researched rights lawyers," 12 Aug. 2018 Taming the Internet Since the introduction of the internet, Chinese Communist Party leaders have worried about its deployment as a means of subversion and spying. New York Times, "What Keeps Xi Jinping Awake at Night," 11 May 2018 And no one does subversion quite like the Scottish designer, either. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "17 Unforgettable—Oh, Let’s Just Come Out and Say It, Ugly!—Sneakers That Defined 2018," 11 Dec. 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

23 Feb 2019

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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 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

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


grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

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