fifth column


fifth column
1. a group of people who act traitorously and subversively out of a secret sympathy with an enemy of their country.
2. (originally) Franco sympathizers in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War: so called in allusion to a statement in 1936 that the insurgents had four columns marching on Madrid and a fifth column of sympathizers in the city ready to rise and betray it.

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▪ military tactic
      clandestine group or faction of subversive agents who attempt to undermine a nation's solidarity by any means at their disposal. The term is credited to Emilio Mola Vidal, a Nationalist general during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). As four of his army columns moved on Madrid, the general referred to his militant supporters within the capital as his “fifth column,” intent on undermining the loyalist government from within.

      A cardinal technique of the fifth column is the infiltration of sympathizers into the entire fabric of the nation under attack and, particularly, into positions of policy decision and national defense. From such key posts, fifth-column activists exploit the fears of a people by spreading rumours and misinformation, as well as by employing the more standard techniques of espionage and sabotage.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • fifth column — fifth col umn, n. [from a statement during the Spanish Civil War (1936) that the Falange had four columns of soldiers marching on the city, and a fifth column already there (i.e. sympathizers inside the Republican lines).] 1. a group of persons… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • fifth column — ► NOUN ▪ a group within a country at war who are working for its enemies. DERIVATIVES fifth columnist noun. ORIGIN from the Spanish Civil War, when General Mola, leading four columns of troops towards Madrid, declared that he had a fifth column… …   English terms dictionary

  • fifth column — n. [first used by the Sp Nationalist General Mola (1936), who, besieging Madrid with four columns from the outside, boasted of having a “fifth column” within] 1. those people in Madrid who aided the forces of Francisco Franco in his uprising… …   English World dictionary

  • fifth column — 1936, from Gen. Emilio Mola s comment at the siege of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War that he would take the city with his four columns of troops outside it and his fifth column (quinta columna) in the city …   Etymology dictionary

  • fifth column — fifth′ col′umn n. 1) gov a group of people who act traitorously and subversively out of a secret sympathy with an enemy of their country 2) gov (originally) Franco sympathizers in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War: the insurgents had four… …   From formal English to slang

  • fifth column — n a group of people who work secretly to help the enemies of the country where they live or the organization in which they work >fifth columnist n …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • fifth column — noun count a group of people who secretly support enemies of their country or opponents of the organization they belong to ╾ ,fifth columnist noun count …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Fifth column — A fifth column is a group of people who undermine a larger group to which it is expected to be loyal, such as a nation. Origin The term originated with a 1936 radio address by Emilio Mola, a nationalist general during the 1936 ndash;39 Spanish… …   Wikipedia

  • fifth column — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms fifth column : singular fifth column plural fifth columns a group of people who secretly support enemies of their country or opponents of the organization they belong to Derived word: fifth columnist noun… …   English dictionary

  • fifth column — an inside group of supporters of an outside force, possibly traitors; the fifth column    Our children prevented our divorce. They knew who was causing our breakup they were like a fifth column! definition provided by Claudia Crowley …   English idioms


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