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

Highlights include Alberto Aguilar’s stylized broken window posters in Havana, Cuba; closer to home will be Betsy Odom’s subversion of sports fan lawn signs in Humboldt Park and Cathy Hsiao’s pale blue front door sculpture in Cicero. Lori Waxman,, "Fall preview: Ten shows in galleries and museums to look forward to," 30 Aug. 2019 All of this eventually collapsed and is now being investigated to discover who should be indicted for this unprecedented subversion of the election process. Conrad Black, National Review, "Trump: A Brief History Thereof," 1 Aug. 2019 Since 2015, hundreds of Chinese activists have been detained and dozens have been prosecuted on subversion charges in an unprecedented nationwide crackdown. Washington Post, "China sentences trailblazing online activist to 12 years in prison," 30 July 2019 For a man with such an interest in letting go of things and who swims so serenely through the modern world of image, subversion, and the context of no context, he is tremendously cultivated in a way that seems almost quaint. Kennedy Fraser, Vogue, "From the Archives: Karl Lagerfeld, The Impresario," 19 Feb. 2019 Few Californians are old enough to remember that during the years immediately after World War II, a Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States and its allies generated a wave of popular fear about communist subversion. Dan Walters, The Mercury News, "Walters: UC’s new political litmus test echoes McCarthy-era ‘oath’," 28 July 2019 The speech included what looked like a message that Hong Kong could not postpone indefinitely its legal duty under the Basic Law, its mini-constitution, to implement national security laws against sedition, subversion, secession, and treason. Keith Bradsher,, "How Hong Kong’s leader makes the biggest political retreat by China under Xi," 15 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 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

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

7 Sep 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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for subversion

Spanish Central: Translation of subversion

Nglish: Translation of subversion for Spanish Speakers

Comments on subversion

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one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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