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Definition of Idiomatic Expressions


What does fifth column mean?

Meaning of idioms with examples...

fifth column

The phrase fifth column refers to a group within a country at war who are sympathetic to or collaborate with its enemies.

The origin of the idiom

As far as the origin of the idiom 'fifth column', Wikipedia states that the phrase was used by rebel general Emilio Mola during the Spanish Civil War. He boasted that while his four columns of troops approached Madrid, a "fifth column" of supporters inside the city were working with him to defeat the Republican government under Francisco Caballero:
During the Siege of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War, Nationalist general Emilio Mola told a journalist in 1936 that as his four columns of troops approached Madrid, a "fifth column" (Spanish: Quinta columna) of supporters inside the city would support him and undermine the Republican government from within.

The term was then widely used in Spain, and Ernest Hemingway used it as the title of his only play, which he wrote in Madrid while the city was being bombarded and published in 1938 in his book The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories.


"There are some people bent on blowing up the situation in the country. I call them the fifth column. They are not an opposition. They want to stage a rebellion in the country. Their dream is to topple the government and overthrow the president." Alexander Lukashenko

fifth column meaning

This idiom is in the numbers category

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