Definition of sabotage in US English:



[with object]
  • Deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct (something), especially for political or military advantage.

    • ‘The guerrillas sabotaged a dam producing a third of the country's electricity, knocking out power in the nation's capital.’
    • ‘Sickness produces symptoms and collateral damage that disrupt or sabotage health.’
    • ‘In fact, if I didn't know better, I might suspect that Rove himself is deliberately trying to sabotage the war effort.’
    • ‘Here, the most radio-friendly melodies are sabotaged by pointed political commentary or swearing.’
    • ‘To give an idea of the kind of resistance undertaken, the book tells the stories of some of the groups that worked with Britain to sabotage German facilities.’
    • ‘Without any evidence whatsoever, government ministers accused the refugees of deliberately sabotaging the vessel.’
    • ‘Another one was an employee who, within his probation period, deliberately sabotaged his company and was let go.’
    • ‘Russian partisans sabotaged railways, destroyed trucks and killed hundreds of Germans in ambush.’
    • ‘Many of these slave workers, male and female, deliberately sabotaged the work that they did - so in their own way they helped the war effort of the Allies.’
    • ‘I urge Dr Lim to work with the community to reduce anti-social behaviour, instead of deliberately sabotaging their efforts.’
    • ‘Within two weeks the worst Channel storm of the 20th century nearly sabotaged the campaign, destroying one of the Mulberry harbours.’
    • ‘He commented that this could be interpreted as an attempt on the part of the General Staff to sabotage reform in the army.’
    • ‘They were prepared to sabotage the Soviet war machine in the event of a Warsaw Pact-NATO conflict.’
    • ‘Her father, who blames his wife for the move, is adamant about returning to the big city - so much so that he deliberately sabotages any relationships she might develop in Guiyang.’
    • ‘In late 2001, illegal vessels were deliberately sabotaged, thus endangering the lives of all of the souls on board - men, women and children.’
    • ‘Joined by a small troop of men, who sometimes get lost along the way, you must fight to destroy the enemy and sabotage the invasion of the planet.’
    • ‘Will internal politics and turf wars sabotage the venture?’
    • ‘At first Isak deliberately sabotages the intruder's research by preparing his food in his bedroom, or in other ways changing his habits.’
    • ‘Wall Street and financial speculators seem intent on sabotaging political candidates rather than waiting to find out if their economic policies will be effective in raising living standards.’
    • ‘Within weeks of this victory, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War had sabotaged the chances of achieving this renewal.’
    wreck, deliberately damage, vandalize, destroy, obstruct, disrupt, cripple, impair, incapacitate
    disrupt, spoil, ruin, wreck, undermine, filibuster, impair, damage, threaten, subvert
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  • The action of sabotaging something.

    • ‘Their arrest is only one of an increasing number of arrests in which Germans have been suspected of planning similar acts of sabotage.’
    • ‘All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching.’
    • ‘None of these accusations however has been proven and some within Bulgaria believe that they were generated as acts of business sabotage by weapons companies from other countries.’
    • ‘‘This is an act of sabotage which we cannot accept,’ he said.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, the Communist Party coordinated a complex series of acts of sabotage and other forms of guerrilla warfare.’
    • ‘The unions vehemently denied supporting acts of sabotage and rejected the idea that their members were behind the incidents.’
    • ‘Every single act of industrial sabotage is being done by the people who formerly ran those systems.’
    • ‘Any further delays to the Act should be seen as an act of economic sabotage and all those involved in its creation should be held accountable.’
    • ‘In 1963, Sisulu was tried with Mandela and other activists for planning acts of sabotage and revolution.’
    • ‘Having failed to defeat McCreevy at home, it seems De Rossa is bent on an act of national sabotage by wrecking his chances of securing an influential post on the Commission.’
    • ‘Power outages, acts of sabotage and general unrest have hampered production.’
    • ‘I was hired by timber workers, mining and ranching interests to investigate acts of sabotage against their industries.’
    • ‘The scenarios might involve a simulated attack by terrorists or mock acts of sabotage by insiders.’
    • ‘Police are investigating whether a train derailment between Ballan and Gordon was caused by an act of sabotage.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A row of more than 15 bricks, pieces of concrete, metal poles, wooden stakes and a traffic cone were balanced on the track in a blatant act of sabotage.’
    • ‘Finally, the negative comments against the English program in St Malo (as quoted in The Carillon a couple of weeks ago) is nothing short of an act of sabotage.’
    • ‘The chief risks involve the theft or diversion of nuclear material from a facility or a physical attack or act of sabotage designed to cause a release of radioactivity.’
    • ‘Four months later, in March, Bert Marlow, an engineer at the club, told how Fred's act of sabotage in the bar almost led to it being flooded.’
    • ‘Acts of sabotage and non-cooperation undermined the Nazis' attempts to exploit the resources of Denmark.’
    wrecking, deliberate damage, vandalism, destruction, obstruction, disruption, crippling, impairment, incapacitation
    disruption, spoiling, ruining, wrecking, undermining, filibustering, impairment, damage, subversion
    View synonyms


Early 20th century: from French, from saboter ‘kick with sabots, wilfully destroy’ (see sabot).