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Vidkun Quisling, Heinrich Himmler, Josef Terboven, and Nikolaus von Falkenhorst seated in front of officers of the Waffen-SS, German Army and Air Force in 1941

Quisling (/ˈkwɪzlɪŋ/; Norwegian pronunciation: [²kvisliŋ]) is a term originating in Norway, which is used in Scandinavian languages and in English for a person who collaborates with an enemy occupying force – or more generally as a synonym for traitor.[1][2][3] The word originates from the surname of the Norwegian war-time leader Vidkun Quisling, who headed a domestic Nazi collaborationist regime during World War II.



Use of Quisling's surname as a term predates World War II. The first recorded use of the term was by Norwegian Labour Party politician Oscar Torp in a 2 January 1933 newspaper interview, where he used it as a general term for followers of Vidkun Quisling. Quisling was at this point in the process of establishing the Nasjonal Samling (National Unity) party, a fascist party modelled on the German Nazi Party. Further uses of the term were made by Aksel Sandemose, in a newspaper article in Dagbladet in 1934, and by the newspaper Vestfold Arbeiderblad, in 1936.[4]

Popularization in World War IIEdit

The use of the name as a term for collaborators or traitors in general probably came about upon Quisling's unsuccessful coup d'état in 1940, when he attempted to seize power and make Norway cease resisting the invading Germans. The term was widely introduced to an English-speaking audience by the British newspaper The Times. It published an editorial on the 19th April 1940 titled "Quislings everywhere", in which it was asserted that "To writers, the word Quisling is a gift from the gods. If they had been ordered to invent a new word for traitor... they could hardly have hit upon a more brilliant combination of letters. Aurally it contrives to suggest something at once slippery and tortuous." The Daily Mail picked up the term four days after The Times editorial was published. The War Illustrated discussed "potential Quislings" among the Dutch during the German invasion of the Netherlands. Subsequently, the BBC brought the word into common use internationally.[5][6]

Chips Channon described how during the Norway Debate of 7-8 May 1940, he and other Conservative MPs who supported Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Neville Chamberlain called those who voted against a motion of confidence "Quislings".[7] Chamberlain's successor Winston Churchill used the term during an address to the Allied Delegates at St. James's Palace on 21 June 1941, when he said:[8] "A vile race of Quislings—to use a new word which will carry the scorn of mankind down the centuries—is hired to fawn upon the conqueror, to collaborate in his designs and to enforce his rule upon their fellow countrymen while grovelling low themselves." He used the term again in an address to both houses of Congress in the United States of America on 26 December 1941.[9] Commenting upon the effect of a number of Allied victories against Axis forces, and moreover the United States’ decision to enter the war, Churchill opined: "Hope has returned to the hearts of scores of millions of men and women, and with that hope there burns the flame of anger against the brutal, corrupt invader. And still more fiercely burn the fires of hatred and contempt for the filthy Quislings whom he has suborned."[10] The term subsequently entered the language and became a target for political cartoonists.[11]

In the United States it was used often. Some examples include: In the Warner Bros. cartoon Tom Turk and Daffy (1944) it was uttered by a Thanksgiving turkey whose presence is betrayed to Porky Pig by Daffy Duck. In the American film Edge of Darkness (1943), about the Resistance in Norway, the heroine's brother is often described as a quisling.

Verb formEdit

The back-formed verb, to quisle (/ˈkwɪzəl/) existed. This back-formed verb gave rise to a much less common version of the noun: quisler.[12]

However, H. L. Mencken (generally considered to be a leading authority on the common English usage in the United States) even in 1944 appeared not to be aware of the existence of the verb form,[13] and to quisle has entirely disappeared from contemporary usage.[14]

Postwar useEdit

"Quisling" was applied to some Communist figures who participated in the establishment of Communist regimes. As an illustration, the renegade socialist Zdeněk Fierlinger of Czechoslovakia was frequently derided as "Quislinger" for his collaboration with the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.[15]

The noun has survived into the 21st century and is still in some use. It appeared in 2008 and 2009 in articles in The New York Times,[16] Die Zeit[17] and The Times.[18] In 2016 The Federalist asked "Is Donald Trump A Russian Quisling?"[19] while Politico,[20] The Hill,[21] and other journals also resurrected the term that year in analyzing contemporary American politics.

Examples of postwar use in various mediaEdit



  • "The Patriot Game", one of the best known songs to emerge from the Irish nationalist struggle, includes the line "...those quislings who sold out the Patriot Game" in some versions[27] (although the original uses "cowards"[28] and other versions substitute "rebels"[29] or "traitors".)[30]
  • The song "Insect Nation" by Bill Bailey includes the lines "What about the crabs Forgot about them Sideways, quislings!"


  • In the 1972 Doctor Who serial "Day of the Daleks", The Doctor refers to another character, the Controller, whose family has collaborated with the Dalek invasion of Earth in an alternate timeline of the 20th century and consequently enslaved the human race, as being a family of quislings.[citation needed]
  • In 1998, after being fired from Saturday Night Live, Norm MacDonald appeared on The David Letterman Show. David Letterman called MacDonald a quisling for somehow being complicit in his firing. After the break, MacDonald read the definition of quisling and said he thought he was dumb for not knowing the word quisling, yet he also felt dumber after reading the definition for still not understanding what it meant.
  • In the Foyle's War pilot episode of (2002), apropos of DCS Foyle's having shared the facts that a murdered German ex-pat, living in, had two brothers still in Germany, one who served in Norway, and the other a ranking officer in the Abwehr in Berlin. Foyle's MTC driver, Samantha "Sam" Stewart, replies by repeating the Mail's reportage that "Norway would never have fallen except for the Germans and their friends inside the country; Quisling. People like that".[citation needed]
  • In House, season 1, episode 18 ("Babies & Bathwater", aired April 19, 2005), the lead character Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) when speaking to Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) makes the following direct reference:
House: You know, there’s a new biography of Quisling, I think you might like it.
Cuddy: Sure. No idea who that is.
House: Uh, Norwegian guy, World War II, traitor. The fact that I have to explain this kind of takes the edge off my flow.[citation needed]
  • In the first scene of the 2014 season three finale of Steven Van Zandt's Lilyhammer television series, actor Trond Fausa Aurvåg's Norwegian character, Torgeir Lien, calls another, traitorous character a quisling.[citation needed]
  • In the comedy-drama series Remington Steele season 2, episode 6 "Steel Framed", Mildred Krebs calls Laura Holt a quisling for seemingly collaborating with police detective Jarvis in his effort to apprehend her boss, Remington Steele.
  • In Billions, season 1, episode 8, Damian Lewis's character Bobby Axelrod angrily shouts at his employees that: "Everything you do will be picked apart, until I discover who is on the level, and who's a fucking quisling!"


  • In a 1966 Peanuts comic strip, Linus tries to hide in Snoopy's doghouse only to have the beagle rat him out. "Traitor! Quisling! Squealer!" Linus shouts at Snoopy as Linus' sister Lucy drags him away.[31] Snoopy replies "A hideout this isn't".
  • The 3 December 2017 comic of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal portrays a group of humans about to be killed by a robot.[32] In the "votey" (bonus frame obtained by clicking a red button), one human in the group asks, "Could you use a quisling?"

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Quisling". Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Quisling". Collins English Dictionary (10th ed.). Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Quisling". Princeton Wordnet Dictionary. 
  4. ^ Godal, Anne Marit (ed.). "Quisling". Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Norsk nettleksikon. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  5. ^ Dahl, Hans Fredrik (1995). "Quisling". In Dahl; Hjeltnes; Nøkleby; Ringdal; Sørensen. Norsk krigsleksikon 1940–45 (in Norwegian). Oslo: Cappelen. p. 334. ISBN 82-02-14138-9.  (in Norwegian)
  6. ^ "First Days of 'Total War' on the Western Front". The War Illustrated. 1940-05-24. p. 540. Retrieved 19 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Jefferys, Kevin (1995). The Churchill Coalition and Wartime Politics, 1940-1945. Manchester University Press. p. 24. ISBN 9780719025600. Retrieved 2018-02-17. 
  8. ^ Prime Minister Churchill, Winston. "Speech to the Allied Delegates". British Library of Information. Retrieved January 26, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Say Quislings Back Winnie". The Windsor Daily Star. November 26, 1946. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  10. ^ Prime Minister Churchill, Winston (December 26, 1941). "Address to the Congress of the United States". British Library of Information. 
  11. ^ Tangenes, Gisle (19 September 2006). "The World According to Quisling". Bits of News. 
  12. ^ "Quisler". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  13. ^ Mencken, H.L. (February 1944). "War of Words in England". American Speech. 19 (1): 13. 
  14. ^ Bolinger, Dwight L. (April 1941). "Among New Words". American Speech. 16 (2): 147. 
  15. ^ Gunther, John (1961). Inside Europe Today. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 334.  LCCN 61-9706
  16. ^ Cohen, Roger (22 February 2009). "What Iran's Jews say". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ "Die unerhörten Tage der Freiheit". Zeit Online (in German). 21 August 2008. 
  18. ^ "Béla Király: Hungarian nationalist". Times Online. July 10, 2009. Archived from the original on May 24, 2010. 
  19. ^ Robert Zubrin (August 2, 2016). "Is Donald Trump A Russian Quisling". The Federalist. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  20. ^ Rich Lowry (January 27, 2016). "The Quisling Establishment". Politico. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  21. ^ Philip N. Diehl (June 22, 2016). "How the GOP is like an occupied country in World War II". The Hill. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  22. ^ Lewis, Clive Staples (2001). Mere Christianity. Zondervan. p. 13. ISBN 9780060652920. 
  23. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R (2006). The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays. London: HarperCollins. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-261-10263-7. 
  24. ^ Heinlein, Robert A. (1964). Farnham's Freehold. G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 297. ISBN 1-299-45990-0. 
  25. ^ Beckmann, Petr (1970). A History of Pi. St. Martin's Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0312381851. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  26. ^ Foster, Alan Dean (1983). Spellsinger (Soft cover ed.). Warner Books. p. 329. I don't think your victory is assured just yet... despite all the quislings you can recruit, and I don't think there'll be all that many. 
  27. ^ "The Patriot Game lyrics". Bells Irish Lyrics. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  28. ^ "The Patriot Game lyrics". Bells Irish Lyrics. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  29. ^ Gerry Kearns (June 2015). "Geographical Formation 2: Larry Kirwan". The Geographical Turn. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  30. ^ Jude Collins (December 3, 2016). "PAT KENNY AND SINN FÉIN by Peter Pymen". Jude Collins website. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  31. ^ "Peanuts by Charles Schulz for Jun 14, 1966". GoComics. Retrieved 7 August 2017. 
  32. ^ "AI 2". Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Retrieved 5 December 2017. 

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