Also sub·ver·sion·ar·y [suhb-vur-zhuh-ner-ee, -shuh-] /səbˈvɜr ʒəˌnɛr i, -ʃə-/. 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 formssub·ver·sive·ly, adverbsub·ver·siv·ism, sub·ver·sive·ness, nouncoun·ter·sub·ver·sive, nounnon·sub·ver·sive, adjectivenon·sub·ver·sive·ly, adverbnon·sub·ver·sive·ness, nounself-sub·ver·sive, adjectiveun·sub·ver·sive, adjectiveun·sub·ver·sive·ly, adverbun·sub·ver·sive·ness, noun

Synonyms for subversive Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for subversive

Contemporary Examples of subversive

Historical Examples of subversive

  • 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.

  • 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 Formssubversively, adverbsubversiveness, 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

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