Origins of Common Words - Sabotage

About the history, origins, and definitions of the common word sabotage.


Sabotage - Many people believe that sabotage comes from the French word sabot. True enough. But when they go on to explain that French industrial workers used to throw their sabots, or wooden shoes, into the machinery to wreak all sorts of havoc, many etymologists disagree. Sabot, they point out, also refers to the wooden part that fixes railway lines to the ties, and they suggest that sabotage referred originally to the French workers' cutting the sabots to prevent trains from coming through. The General Confederation of Labor of France first defined sabotage as a general act of industrial warfare in 1887, but the word did not enter English until 1910, at the time of the French railroad strike.

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