Origin of fifth columntranslated, translation of Spanish quinta columna: first used (1936) by the Spanish Nationalist General Mola, who, besieging Madrid with four columns from the outside, boasted of having a “fifth column” of civilian supporters within
Origin of fifth columnFirst applied in 1936 to rebel sympathizers inside Madrid when four columns of rebel troops were attacking that city
- fifth col′um·nism
- fifth columnist
(plural fifth columns)
From a 1936 radio address by Spanish Nationalist general Emilio Mola, in which he spoke of four of his army columns moving on Madrid and a quinta columna consisting of his militant supporters within the capital, intent on undermining the Republican government from within.