My understanding is that the "sabot" was a kind of shoe. In English, there is a proverb "to throw a monkey wrench, into something," i.e. to "sabotage" it. Could there be a French proverb that uses a "sabot" as a version of a "monkey wrench"?

Another possibility comes from Wikipedia, where a sabot is a projectile, which makes more sense, but which doesn't quite square with what I know of the word having been introduced around the time of the Industrial Revolution.

3 Answers 3


The explanation I know makes it come from the wooden shoe and printing jargon. At some time, the used, faulty letters were thrown away in a sabot or similar bucket.

The verb "saboter" then meant "to voluntarily throw away a perfectly working piece in the sabot", whence the current connotations.

This also gives an upper-bound for the origin of the word.


Le nom sabotage vient de saboter.

D'après le « Dictionnaire historique de la langue française » (s.l.d. d'Alain Rey) en ancien français le verbe saboter voulait dire secouer, maltraiter, et c'est peut-être de là que serait dérivé le sens actuel de détruire.

The noun sabotage comes from the verb saboter.

According to the «Dictionnaire Historique de la langue français » (under the direction of Alain Rey) in old French saboter had the meaning of abuse, ill-treat. The present sense of destroy could very well come from that.


Saboter est aussi beaucoup utilisé à la télévision télévision en France pour parler des actions des résistants pendant la seconde guerre mondiale.

Saboter is often used to report WW II resistance operations in France, especially in TV documentaries.

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