AskDefine | Define sabotage

Dictionary Definition

sabotage n : a deliberate act of destruction or disruption in which equipment is damaged v : destroy property or hinder normal operations; "The Resistance sabotaged railroad operations during the war" [syn: undermine, countermine, counteract, subvert, weaken]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Sabotage



From sabotage (verb is from the noun)


  1. A deliberate action aimed at weakening an enemy through subversion, obstruction, disruption, and/or destruction.
  2. An act or acts with intent to injure, interfere with, or obstruct the national defense of a country by willfully injuring or destroying, or attempting to injure or destroy, any national defense or war materiel, premises, or utilities, to include human and natural resources.


Deliberate action
Act with intent to injure


  1. to deliberately destroy or damage something in order to prevent it from being successful
    The railway line had been sabotaged by enemy commandos


deliberate destruction to prevent success

See also



saboter + -age


fr-noun f





Extensive Definition

Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening an enemy, oppressor or employer through subversion, obstruction, disruption, and/or destruction.


Sabotage is a term of French origin coined during the railway strike of 1910, when workers destroyed the wooden shoes, or sabots, that held rails in place, thus impeding the morning commute. An alternate definition pretends the word to be older by almost a century, the times of Industrial Revolution. It is said that powered looms could be damaged by angry or disgruntled workers throwing their wooden shoes or clogs (known in French as sabots, hence the term Sabotage) into the machinery, effectively clogging the machinery. This is often referenced as one of the first inklings of the Luddite Movement. However, this etymology is highly suspect and no wooden shoe sabotage is known to have been reported from the time of the word's origin. Others contend that the word comes from the slang name for people living in rural areas who wore wooden shoes after city dwellers had begun wearing leather shoes; when employers wanted strikebreakers they would import 'sabots'/rural workers to replace the strikers. Not used to machine-driven labor the 'sabots' worked poorly and slowly. The strikers would be called back to work (with demands won) and, could win demands on the job by working like their country cousins - the sabots. Thus 'sabotage'.

Sabotage in war

In war, the word is used to describe the activity of an individual or group not associated with the military of the parties at war (such as a foreign agent or an indigenous supporter), in particular when actions result in the destruction or damaging of a productive or vital facility, such as equipment, factories, dams, public services, storage plants or logistic routes. Prime examples of such sabotage are the events of Black Tom and the Kingsland Explosion. Unlike acts of terrorism, acts of sabotage do not always have a primary objective of inflicting casualties. Saboteurs are usually classified as enemies, and like spies may be liable to prosecution and criminal penalties instead of detention as a prisoner of war. It is common for a government in power during war or supporters of the war policy to use the term loosely against opponents of the war. Similarly, German Nationalists spoke of a stab in the back having cost them the loss of World War I. Also see
The cold war included a subtle form of sabotage. One well documented case is the Soviets Trans-Siberian Pipeline Incident, triggered by the Farewell Dossier.
Subtle sabotage has also been employeed for other reasons, including attempting to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities.

Sabotage as part of a crime

Some criminals have engaged in acts of sabotage for reasons of extortion. For example, Klaus-Peter Sabotta sabotaged German railway lines in the late 1990s in an attempt to extort DM10 million from the German railway operator Deutsche Bahn. He is now serving a sentence of life imprisonment.

Workplace sabotage

When disgruntled workers damage or destroy equipment or interfere with the smooth running of a workplace, it is called workplace sabotage. This can be as part of an organized group activity, or the action of one or a few workers in response to personal grievances. Luddites and Radical labor unions such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have advocated sabotage as a means of self-defense and direct action against unfair working conditions.
The IWW was shaped in part by the industrial unionism philosophy of Big Bill Haywood, and in 1910 Haywood was exposed to sabotage while touring Europe:
The experience that had the most lasting impact on Haywood was witnessing a general strike on the French railroads. Tired of waiting for parliament to act on their demands, railroad workers walked off their jobs all across the country. The French government responded by drafting the strikers into the army and then ordering them back to work. Undaunted, the workers carried their strike to the job. Suddenly, they could not seem to do anything right. Perishables sat for weeks, sidetracked and forgotten. Freight bound for Paris was misdirected to Lyon or Marseille instead. * Colin Gubbins
sabotage in Bulgarian: Саботаж
sabotage in Czech: Sabotáž
sabotage in Danish: Sabotage
sabotage in German: Sabotage
sabotage in Spanish: Sabotaje
sabotage in French: Sabotage
sabotage in Friulian: Sabotaç
sabotage in Italian: Sabotaggio
sabotage in Hebrew: סבוטאז'
sabotage in Dutch: Sabotage
sabotage in Japanese: 破壊活動
sabotage in Norwegian: Sabotasje
sabotage in Polish: Dywersja
sabotage in Portuguese: Sabotagem
sabotage in Russian: Диверсия
sabotage in Finnish: Sabotaasi
sabotage in Swedish: Sabotage

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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