You might want to call someone subversive if they are sneakily trying to undermine something, from the social structure of your high school to an entire system of government.

You can use subversive as a noun or an adjective without changing it one whit. Note the prefix sub, meaning "underneath," with the remainder coming from the Latin vertere, "to turn." Think about a subversive as a sneaky kind of revolutionary who tries to turn the system from underneath. Art or literature is considered subversive if it attempts to undermine the dominant values and traditions of a society.

Definitions of subversive

adj in opposition to a civil authority or government

insurgent, seditious
deserting your allegiance or duty to leader or cause or principle

n a radical supporter of political or social revolution

revolutionary, revolutionist, subverter
show 13 examples...
hide 13 examples...
Marie Anne Charlotte Corday d'Armont
French revolutionary heroine (a Girondist) who assassinated Marat (1768-1793)
Georges Jacques Danton
French revolutionary leader who stormed the Paris bastille and who supported the execution of Louis XVI but was guillotined by Robespierre for his opposition to the Reign of Terror (1759-1794)
Ernesto Guevara
an Argentine revolutionary leader who was Fidel Castro's chief lieutenant in the Cuban revolution; active in other Latin American countries; was captured and executed by the Bolivian army (1928-1967)
Mao Tsetung
Chinese communist leader (1893-1976)
Jean Paul Marat
French revolutionary leader (born in Switzerland) who was a leader in overthrowing the Girondists and was stabbed to death in his bath by Charlotte Corday (1743-1793)
Jose Julian Marti
Cuban poet and revolutionary who fought for Cuban independence from Spain (1853-1895)
Karl Marx
founder of modern communism; wrote the Communist Manifesto with Engels in 1848; wrote Das Kapital in 1867 (1818-1883)
Honore-Gabriel Victor Riqueti
French revolutionary who was prominent in the early days of the French Revolution (1749-1791)
Maxmillien Marie Isidore de Robespierre
French revolutionary; leader of the Jacobins and architect of the Reign of Terror; was himself executed in a coup d'etat (1758-1794)
Lev Davidovich Bronstein
Russian revolutionary and Communist theorist who helped Lenin and built up the army; he was ousted from the Communist Party by Stalin and eventually assassinated in Mexico (1879-1940)
Francisco Villa
Mexican revolutionary leader (1877-1923)
Emiliano Zapata
Mexican revolutionary who led a revolt for agrarian reforms (1879-1919)
Chou En-lai
Chinese revolutionary and communist leader (1898-1976)
show 6 types...
hide 6 types...
counter-revolutionist, counterrevolutionary, counterrevolutionist
a revolutionary whose aim is to reverse the changes introduced by an earlier revolution
dynamiter, dynamitist
a person who uses dynamite in a revolutionary cause
Girondin, Girondist
a member of the moderate republican party that was in power during the French Revolution; the Girondists were overthrown by their more radical rivals the Jacobins
freedom fighter, insurgent, insurrectionist, rebel
a person who takes part in an armed rebellion against the constituted authority (especially in the hope of improving conditions)
someone who is openly rebellious and refuses to obey authorities (especially seamen or soldiers)
Young Turk
a member of one or more of the insurgent groups in Turkey in the late 19th century who rebelled against the absolutism of Ottoman rule
Type of:
a person who has radical ideas or opinions

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.