When you subvert something, your words or actions criticize or undermine the usual way of doing something or common values. The girl who wears a tuxedo to the prom might subvert traditional ideas about beauty.

To subvert an institution like a school or a government is to overthrow it or stop its normal way of functioning. Subvert comes from the Latin word subvertere, which combines the prefix sub, under, and the suffix vertere, to turn. So you can imagine something that subverts as overturning or flipping the usual way of doing things, like a student who subverts a teacher's authority, causing chaos in the classroom.

Definitions of subvert

v overthrow or destroy completely

“we must not let our civil liberties be subverted by the current crisis”
Type of:
destroy, ruin
destroy completely; damage irreparably

v destroy property or hinder normal operations

counteract, countermine, sabotage, undermine, weaken
cause to run off the tracks
Type of:
refuse to go along with; refuse to follow; be disobedient

v corrupt morally or by intemperance or sensuality

“Do school counselors subvert young children?”
corrupt, debase, debauch, demoralise, demoralize, deprave, misdirect, pervert, profane, vitiate
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carnalise, carnalize, sensualise, sensualize
debase through carnal gratification
corrupt with ideas or an ideology
lead astray, lead off
teach immoral behavior to
spoil as if by poison
bastardise, bastardize
change something so that its value declines; for example, art forms
incite to commit a crime or an evil deed
Type of:
alter, change, modify
cause to change; make different; cause a transformation

v cause the downfall of; of rulers

subvert the ruling class”
bring down, overthrow, overturn
overthrow by a revolution, of governments
Type of:
depose, force out
force to leave (an office)

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