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[suh b-vur-siv] /səbˈvɜr sɪv/
Also, subversionary
[suh b-vur-zhuh-ner-ee, -shuh-] /səbˈvɜr ʒəˌnɛr i, -ʃə-/ (Show IPA)
. tending or intending to subvert or overthrow, destroy, or undermine an established or existing system, especially a legally constituted government or a set of beliefs.
a person who adopts subversive principles or policies.
Origin of subversive
1635-45; < Latin subvers(us) (past participle of subvertere to subvert) + -ive
Related forms
subversively, adverb
subversivism, subversiveness, noun
countersubversive, noun
nonsubversive, adjective
nonsubversively, adverb
nonsubversiveness, noun
self-subversive, adjective
unsubversive, adjective
unsubversively, adverb
unsubversiveness, noun
1. traitorous, treacherous, seditious, destructive. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for subversive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They remained to carry on his subversive treacherous intrigues.

    The Snare Rafael Sabatini
  • The doctrines inculcated in them were subversive of every principle of morality and religion.

  • Disapproval in the majority of cases would have been subversive of all discipline.

    The Citizen-Soldier John Beatty
  • This is not subversive of inherited divisions of labor in the home.

    The Family and it's Members Anna Garlin Spencer
  • Must I read about these things in the papers to keep up on subversive activity?

    The Deadly Daughters Winston K. Marks
British Dictionary definitions for subversive


liable to subvert or overthrow a government, legally constituted institution, etc
a person engaged in subversive activities, etc
Derived Forms
subversively, adverb
subversiveness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for subversive

1640s, from Latin subvers-, past participle stem of subvertere (see subvert) + -ive. As a noun, attested from 1887.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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