fifth column
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 inside the battle lines of a territory engaged in a conflict, who secretly sympathize with the enemy, and who engage in espionage or sabotage; -- sometimes also referred to as a {trojan horse}. [RP]

2. Hence, any faction of persons within a group who secretly sympathize with an enemy, especially those who engage in activities harmful to the group; an enemy in one's midst; a group of traitors. [RP]


The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • fifth column — fifth columnist. 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… …   Universalium

  • 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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