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Meaning: a person who tries to overthrow a government or political system

For example:

  • Those protesters are dangerous subversives, and they have to be stopped!

  • Thousands of so-called "subversives" were killed by members of the government's security forces.

Note: For advanced learners: One of many dysphemisms that oppressive governments use to demonize those opposed to them, or make them seem more dangerous or violent than they are. Others include "dissident", "insurgent", "seditionist", "militant" and "terrorist". Words like "militant" and "terrorist" aren't dysphemistic when they're used to describe people who really do use violence against innocent civilians, however.

Quick Quiz:

The word "subversive" is often used to demonize people who

a. oppose a government

b. support a government

c. protect a government

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Contributor: Matt Errey