[ si-dish-uhn ]
/ sɪˈdɪʃ ən /
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incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government.
any action, especially in speech or writing, promoting such discontent or rebellion.
Archaic. rebellious disorder.


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Origin of sedition

1325–75; <Latin sēditiōn- (stem of sēditiō), equivalent to sēd-se- + -itiōn- a going (it(us), past participle of īre to go + -iōn--ion); replacing Middle English sedicioun<Anglo-French <Latin, as above

synonym study for sedition

1. See treason.


an·ti·se·di·tion, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does sedition mean?

Sedition is the act of encouraging rebellion against the government, or an action that promotes such rebellion, such as through speech or writing.

What’s the difference between treason and sedition? Treason typically refers to a direct action to overthrow or betray one’s government, whereas sedition usually falls short of direct action and instead involves the promotion of revolutionary or treasonous actions. Legally, sedition is typically considered a less serious offense than treason.

Example: His statements amount to nothing less than sedition—he’s actively trying to incite a rebellion against the government.

Why is sedition trending?

On January 6, 2021, the word sedition surged in use—and lookups for the word soared 5492% on Dictionary.com—after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building on the day Congress was set to certify the electoral vote count to confirm Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. Journalists, political analysts and observers, and even President-elect Joe Biden himself used the word sedition to characterize the unbelievable events that happened in the nation’s capital.


The shocking events were described with other strong words such as insurrection, coup (d’état), and (domestic) terrorism. Insurrection involves an actual instance of resisting or rebelling against the government, while sedition is incitement or promotion of such actions. A coup, in this context short for coup d’état, is an illegal or forceful change of government rather than the incitement of a rebellion—hence expressions like an attempted coup or failed coup. Finally, terrorism, more broadly, involves using actual violence or threats especially against civilians for political purposes; domestic terrorism specifically refers to when citizens engage in terrorist acts against their fellow citizens.

Some even likened the events to those you would see in a banana republic, a term (with a problematic history) for an authoritarian country that prioritizes wealthy elites or foreign corporations by exploiting its citizens.

On September 17, 2020, searches for sedition also notably increased 3,851% compared to the previous week after U.S. Attorney General William Barr was reported to have controversially encouraged federal prosecutors to pursue charges of sedition against demonstrators accused of causing violence in ongoing nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in May 2020.

Also driving up searches for sedition was Michael Caputo, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, who caused his own controversy after accusing career scientists at the Centers for Disease Control of sedition in a Facebook Live video on Sunday, September 13, 2020.

Where does sedition come from?

The first records of sedition in English come from the late 1300s. It ultimately comes from the Latin sēditiō, meaning “discord,” from sēd-, meaning “apart,” and itiō, meaning “a going.”

The goal of sedition is typically to promote discord between the government and the people in order to start a rebellion that overthrows the government. Obviously, governments don’t like the idea of sedition and sometimes pass laws against it. In the history of the United States, there have been two notable sedition acts passed, and both were repealed. The first came in 1798 as part of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which restricted the political activities of people who sympathized with French revolutionaries, most notably criticism of Congress or the president. The acts were either repealed or allowed to expire in the early 1800s. The Sedition Act of 1918 targeted those who opposed the nation’s entry into World War I. It made it illegal to do things like insult the government or military or protest against the war effort. It was repealed in 1921. Sedition laws such as these are often considered to be in conflict with protections of free speech.

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What are some other forms related to sedition?

What are some words that share a root or word element with sedition

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How is sedition used in real life?

The word sedition is typically used in political and legal contexts.

Try using sedition

True or False? 

Sedition is the same as treason.

How to use sedition in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for sedition

/ (sɪˈdɪʃən) /

speech or behaviour directed against the peace of a state
an offence that tends to undermine the authority of a state
an incitement to public disorder
archaic revolt

Derived forms of sedition

seditionary, noun, adjective

Word Origin for sedition

C14: from Latin sēditiō discord, from sēd- apart + itiō a going, from īre to go
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

Cultural definitions for sedition


Acts that incite rebellion or civil disorder against an established government.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.