con·​tro·​ver·​sial | \ ˌkän-trə-ˈvər-shəl How to pronounce controversial (audio) , -ˈvər-sē-əl \

Definition of controversial

1 : of, relating to, or arousing controversy a controversial policy a controversial film
2 : given to controversy : disputatious a controversial temperament The controversial biologist caused a ferment among his colleagues.

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Other Words from controversial

controversialism \ ˌkän-​trə-​ˈvər-​shə-​ˌli-​zəm How to pronounce controversialism (audio) , -​sē-​ə-​ˌli-​ \ noun
controversialist \ ˌkän-​trə-​ˈvər-​shə-​list How to pronounce controversialist (audio) , -​sē-​ə-​list \ noun
controversially adverb

Examples of controversial in a Sentence

Abortion is a highly controversial subject. a decision that remains controversial He is a controversial author.
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Recent Examples on the Web Federal investigators looking into the House Bill 6 bribery scandal subpoenaed records from Yost’s office related to the failed effort to hold a statewide referendum to overturn the controversial energy law. cleveland, "Don’t expect Ohio’s coronavirus map to look better anytime soon: Capitol Letter," 19 Oct. 2020 In 2016, the country enacted a controversial cybersecurity law to regulate internet content. Charles Riley, CNN, "Pakistan reverses TikTok ban after 10 days," 19 Oct. 2020 Zimmerman was acquitted under Florida's controversial self-defense law. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Street outside Trayvon Martin's high school to be named after him," 12 Oct. 2020 Trudeau, who was on the defensive for much of the summer during an ethics controversy that had weighed on his approval ratings, made the controversial decision in August to seek the suspension of Parliament. Washington Post, "Trudeau government survives confidence vote in Canadian Parliament," 7 Oct. 2020 Authorities say more than 50 people were killed when clashes broke out between Hindus and Muslims over a controversial citizenship law in February in the worst rioting in the Indian capital in decades. NBC News, "Amnesty International halts India operations citing government reprisals," 29 Sep. 2020 Earlier, Clinton had called on voters to get behind Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, citing his work on the controversial 1994 crime law. Emma Colton, Washington Examiner, "Juanita Broaddrick rips Bill Clinton after touting Violence Against Women Act: 'Go to hell and take Hillary with you'," 15 Sep. 2020 South Phoenix was hit particularly hard by an undercount in 2010 in the wake of the controversial immigration enforcement law SB 1070. Megan Taros, The Arizona Republic, "Shortened U.S. census deadline may disproportionately impact communities of color," 10 Sep. 2020 ProPublica obtained them this summer through a public records request after New York repealed a controversial state law that had kept them secret for decades. ProPublica, "Over a Dozen Black and Latino Men Accused a Cop of Humiliating, Invasive Strip Searches. The NYPD Kept Promoting Him.," 10 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'controversial.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of controversial

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for controversial

see controversy

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Time Traveler for controversial

Time Traveler

The first known use of controversial was in 1583

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Statistics for controversial

Last Updated

26 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Controversial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for controversial


How to pronounce controversial (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of controversial

: relating to or causing much discussion, disagreement, or argument : likely to produce controversy


con·​tro·​ver·​sial | \ ˌkän-trə-ˈvər-shəl How to pronounce controversial (audio) \

Kids Definition of controversial

: relating to or causing disagreement or argument a controversial law

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