Sabotage

A United States poster from the World War II-era that was used to inform people about what they should do if they suspect sabotage

Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity, effort, or organization through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. One who engages in sabotage is a saboteur. Saboteurs typically try to conceal their identities because of the consequences of their actions.

Any unexplained adverse condition might be sabotage. Sabotage is sometimes called tampering, meddling, tinkering, malicious pranks, malicious hacking, a practical joke, or the like to avoid needing to invoke legal and organizational requirements for addressing sabotage.

Etymology

A popular but false account of the origin of the term's present meaning is the story that less wealthy workers in France, who wore not leather but wooden shoes, used to throw these sabots into the machines to disrupt production.[1] This origin story is told in the 1991 movie Star Trek VI. This account is not supported by the etymology.[1] Rather, the French source word literally means to "walk noisily", as was done by sabot-wearing labourers, who interrupted production by means of labor disputes, not damage.[1]

One of its first appearances in French literature is in the Dictionnaire du Bas-Langage ou manières de parler usitées parmi le peuple of D'Hautel, edited in 1808.[2]

The verb "saboter" is also found in 1873–1874 in the Dictionnaire de la langue française of Émile Littré.[3] But it is at the end of the 19th century that it really began to be used with the meaning of "deliberately and maliciously destroying property" or "working slower". In 1897, Émile Pouget, a famous syndicalist and anarchist wrote "action de saboter un travail" (action of sabotaging a work) in Le Père Peinard[4] and in 1911 he also wrote a book entitled Le Sabotage.[5]