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 controversial (audio) , -​sē-​ə-​ˌli-​ \ noun
controversialist \ ˌkän-​trə-​ˈvər-​shə-​list How to pronounce controversial (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 The agency, now led by acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, is still missing a full slate of commissioners, hampering its ability to tackle controversial policy issues. Drew Fitzgerald, WSJ, 11 Oct. 2021 McAuliffe has attempted to distance himself from the defund police movement that has become popular among many Democrats and has been pressed on other controversial issues such as Critical Race Theory. Andrew Mark Miller, Fox News, 8 Oct. 2021 The authority that the Administration invoked to do this came in large part from an obscure, controversial policy called Title 42. Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, 6 Oct. 2021 The Newberg School Board on Tuesday voted 4-3 to approve a controversial policy banning the displays just hours after district educators rallied in opposition to the move. oregonlive, 2 Oct. 2021 Still others were expelled from the US under Title 42, a controversial Trump-era policy that allows border officials to quickly remove migrants as a pandemic public health precaution. Aj Willingham, CNN, 27 Sep. 2021 In regular session, the board tabled action on a board policy on controversial issues and will seek more feedback on it from staff. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Sep. 2021 The Vallejo City Council revised a controversial policy that allowed council members to silence some commenters at public meetings following calls from the ACLU and community members that the rule was unconstitutional. Andres Picon, San Francisco Chronicle, 14 Sep. 2021 In the not too distant past, brands avoided controversial sociopolitical issues and focused on specific legal and policy issues directly related to their business activities. Aaron Poynton, Forbes, 14 Sep. 2021

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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Last Updated

15 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Controversial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Oct. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce controversial (audio) \

Kids Definition of controversial

: relating to or causing disagreement or argument a controversial law

More from Merriam-Webster on controversial

Nglish: Translation of controversial for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of controversial for Arabic Speakers


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