con·tro·ver·sial | \ ˌkän-trə-ˈvər-shəl , -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, -sē-ə-ˌli- \ noun
controversialist \ˌkän-trə-ˈvər-shə-list, -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

The selling of hemp is sometimes controversial, given that it is often associated with marijuana. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Six things you might be asking about hemp," 13 July 2018 Wildly controversial at the time, it was seen as potentially paving the way for other states to enact similar legislation. Brittany Shoot, Fortune, "Over 100 Millionaires Fled California Following a 2012 Tax Increase, Study Finds," 6 July 2018 With other upcoming reboots promising to tackle controversial, present-day issues, this possibility doesn't seem too far-fetched. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "Fran Drescher Hints That a 'Nanny' Reboot Might Be In the Works: "It's Gonna Be Big"," 21 June 2018 There was the 43-point eruption against Oregon on a neutral court, the 39-point explosion at Texas Christian and the controversial, 48-point outburst at rival Oklahoma State (which required 39 shots). Chris Johnson,, "2018 NBA Draft Superlatives: Biggest Sleeper, Safest Pick And More," 14 June 2018 There are some more subtle, and perhaps controversial, possibilities. Alex Hutchinson, Outside Online, "The Art of Pacing Is More Complicated Than You Think," 14 June 2018 Italian designer Stefano Gabbana has a reputation for controversial, unfiltered and downright scathing remarks on social media. Brittany Talarico,, "Controversial Designer Stefano Gabbana Calls Selena Gomez 'Ugly' - and Her Fans Hit Back," 13 June 2018 The arrival of the drones in L.A. County was no less controversial, immediately triggering a public outcry, particularly from an activist group calling itself the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. Geoff Manaugh, The Atlantic, "Drone Cops Take Flight in Los Angeles," 8 June 2018 Always outspoken and often controversial, Kahan and his work have sparked pushback and criticism over the years. Keri Blakinger, Houston Chronicle, "Longtime City of Houston victim advocate Andy Kahan announces retirement," 4 June 2018

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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Last Updated

11 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for controversial

The first known use of controversial was in 1583

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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 \

Kids Definition of controversial

: relating to or causing disagreement or argument a controversial law

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Comments on controversial

What made you want to look up controversial? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


occurring twice a year or every two years

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