fifth column

noun
1.
a group of people who act traitorously and subversively out of a secret sympathy with an enemy of their country.
2.
(originally) Franco sympathizers in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War: so called in allusion to a statement in 1936 that the insurgents had four columns marching on Madrid and a fifth column of sympathizers in the city ready to rise and betray it.

fifth columnist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged
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World English Dictionary
fifth column
 
n
1.  (originally) a group of Falangist sympathizers in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War who were prepared to join the four columns of insurgents marching on the city
2.  any group of hostile or subversive infiltrators; an enemy in one's midst
 
fifth columnist
 
n

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

fifth column definition


People willing to cooperate with an aggressor against their own country. The term originated in a remark by Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator, that he was marching on Madrid with four columns of troops, and that there was a “fifth column” of sympathizers within the city ready to help.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

fifth column

A secret subversive group that works against a country or organization from the inside, as in The right-to-life movement has established a fifth column among freedom-of-choice activists. This term was invented by General Emilio Mola during the Spanish Civil War in a radio broadcast on October 16, 1936, in which he said that he had una quinta columna ("a fifth column") of sympathizers for General Franco among the Republicans holding the city of Madrid, and it would join his four columns of troops when they attacked. The term was popularized by Ernest Hemingway and later extended to any traitorous insiders.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

fifth column

clandestine group or faction of subversive agents who attempt to undermine a nation's solidarity by any means at their disposal. The term is credited to Emilio Mola Vidal, a Nationalist general during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). As four of his army columns moved on Madrid, the general referred to his militant supporters within the capital as his "fifth column," intent on undermining the loyalist government from within

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Loyalists could have become a fifth column in many communities.
The policy of not allowing refugees to return was partly defensive, to avoid a
  fifth column.
Each state's total number of reported deaths is listed in the fifth column.
The legal source or related statute is noted in the fifth column of the table.
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