Fifth column

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The term fifth column is an open compound word that can be traced to a very specific point of origin. An open compound word is a noun that is composed of two words that are often used together, yet still maintain a space between the two words. We will examine the definition of the term fifth column, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A fifth column is a group of saboteurs or spies working within a country for the enemies of that country. A fifth column is a clandestine group. The term fifth column is derived from a boast made by General Emilio Mola during the Spanish Civil War. Mola was  a Nationalist, and told reporters that not only were his four columns of troops marching on Madrid, but that a fifth column of his supporters were in place inside the city already sabotaging the Republican government. The term fifth column came to mean a clandestine group working within a country in order to sabotage that country.


A senior member of the far-Right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) described German Turks who voted in favour of the reforms as a “fifth column” and demanded they “go home”. (The Telegraph)

Critics of Gulen “…say he has built a dangerous cult that has infiltrated all corners of the Turkish state—a fifth column that has shown its true colours in this latest coup attempt,” according to an article published by BBC. (The Massachusetts Daily Collegian)

Well, if a fifth column from our state competitors infiltrated our public policy process in order to damage our state’s economy and throw Oklahomans out of work, this plan is the one they would execute. (The Journal Record)