Definition of sabotage in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsabəˌtäZH/


[with object]
Deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct (something), especially for political or military advantage.
Example sentences
  • They were prepared to sabotage the Soviet war machine in the event of a Warsaw Pact-NATO conflict.
  • At first Isak deliberately sabotages the intruder's research by preparing his food in his bedroom, or in other ways changing his habits.
  • Russian partisans sabotaged railways, destroyed trucks and killed hundreds of Germans in ambush.
vandalize, wreck, damage, destroy, cripple, impair, incapacitate;
obstruct, disrupt, spoil, ruin, undermine, threaten, subvert


The action of sabotaging something.
Example sentences
  • Their arrest is only one of an increasing number of arrests in which Germans have been suspected of planning similar acts of sabotage.
  • Acts of sabotage and non-cooperation undermined the Nazis' attempts to exploit the resources of Denmark.
  • He reported that in September there were 534 acts of sabotage against railroads as compared to a monthly average of 130 during the first half of the year.
vandalism, wrecking, destruction, impairment, incapacitation, damage;
subversion, obstruction, disruption, spoiling, undermining
informal a (monkey) wrench in the works


Early 20th century: from French, from saboter 'kick with sabots, willfully destroy' (see sabot).

  • French peasants and other workers traditionally wore sabots, wooden clogs. When French workmen took action against the introduction of new technology by destroying machines and tools in the 19th century, people looked at them and called the action sabotage. The word first appeared in English the first decade of the 20th century, referring to a court case in Paris. By 1916 the Sydney Morning Herald could report a labourer on an Australian sheep farm threatening sabotage against politicians and employers.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sab·o·tage

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.