Where does the word “sabotage” come from and What does sabotage mean in French?

Nobody knows just when the French began to use the word sabotage.

Probably it was formed a number of years ago when children found to their delight that, clattering together in their clumsy wooden sabots, they could drive their teachers or their parents to distraction.

At least, in some such manner, sabotage came to signify any kind of nuisance that might or would bring about a desired end. But in 1887 it acquired a more sinister meaning.

In that year the French General Confederation of Labor adopted sabotage as an instrument of industrial warfare.

It was to include any kind of malicious damage that would injure an employer in any way, the disablement of machinery by dropping sand in its bearings, the destruction of tools, destruction of belting, spoilage of raw material, anything at all that was calculated to force an employer to yield to a demand by labor.

The term came into English use by journalists in describing a long and disastrous strike upon the railway lines of France, at which time all the principles of sabotage were put into practice.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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