Thursday, December 3, 2020

Etymology of the word sabatoge

 Sabatoge: a term that is derived from the Latin word SABBATUM meaning "the day of Saturn (or sabbath)" and was first used in the 14th century. The direct English translation for Sabatoge comes to mean something along the lines of "to occupy or seize property illegally" or better still, as stated by Merriam-Webster: "to spoil, mar, or wreck; specifically : to damage (a ship) intentionally so as to prevent its use.

I believe that this definition is made up of two parts, the first being the act of occupying or seizing property illegally, and second being damaging a ship. In regards to the second part I feel that it could be argued in court that items placed onto said "ship" are not necessarily owned by all people on board. This would lead me to say they can be considered as "stolen goods". So let's focus on what we mean when we refer to an occupation of property.

It may be said that occupation of property is a production of force. This would tie in nicely with the first part, as it can be understood that an illegal act could lead to this use of force and therefore can be classified as such.

The use of force is a term that has been used throughout the ages and it can be argued that it stems from an individual's own personal rights as granted by themselves and society. For example, one person's right to property is another's crime.

This understanding of property stems from the existence and use of violence. As mentioned before, violence can be defined as an act which produces force to support power. Are we using force when a person lays claim to something? If so, this would lead us back to the original definition of Sabatoge.

There is a question of how we are defining force. I can see this as an act that requires physical strength, or the ability to exert one's will on another person. It could also be argued that violence is not necessarily using force, but rather the power behind it.


In some ways, the etymology of a word is itself as interesting or potentially more interesting than its definition. The roots of words often reveal the origin and history of particular uses within our culture. In doing so, they provide us with an opportunity to reflect on how language changes over time. Moreover, although most people are unaware that it is happening at all, there naturally occurs a kind of metaphorical relationship between certain concepts and words; this means that sometimes when we have a new concept (such as "a saboteur"), we borrow an old word from which to name it ("sabotage").

The word 'sabotage' originated in the late 19th century, when it appeared first as a noun. Described initially as an act of malicious damage to property or machinery resulting from an employer's labor dispute with its workers, the term was slowly formalized into what we know today: a deliberate attempt by workers to hinder productivity, typically through damaging equipment; at that time (and for years after), this practice was largely unheard of.

Eventually, the word 'sabotage' was adopted in other ways. It is now used to describe any action that deliberately disrupts or damages a process or system with malicious intent. It can be applied to technical and non-technical fields such as business, politics, engineering and even sports (where it's often used to describe infractions of game rules). In most cases today though, the term doesn't necessarily refer solely to industrial disputes; rather it implies an underlying sense of destructiveness on the part of an individual.

The word 'sabotage' is derived from the French verb "saboter", meaning 'to make a mess of things'.

While this looks similar to the English word "sabot", which means 'a work shoe of heavy felt, rubber or wood', and refers to a particular type of wooden clog, they are actually unrelated. The French verb 'saboter' is related to the word 'sable', meaning sand. So in some ways, it's not surprising that the term originally referred to making a mess with sand.

The French verb 'saboter' is itself likely a combination of two English words: the noun "sub", which means under or below, and the verb "a boter" (meaning to beat), hence its meaning: to pound or ram something down forcefully.


The word sabotage seems to be a combination of three other words, sabbat and sabotage. Sabbat comes from the Hebrew word shabbath, which means rest or cease. Sabatoge could thus mean to interrupt work or activity on Shabbath.

Clearly the word sabotage has religious roots.

The other component of the word is sabotage, which comes from French and means to attack or destroy. So a person who sabotages his work would be doing so with the intent to not do it.

Since a person who sabotages his work would thus be at rest, it seems that sabotage has the same roots as sabbat. Indeed the word sabbotage is likely just a combination of sabotage and sabbat.

In conclusion, sabotage means to not do work on Shabbath. That is a lot of effort for one word.

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