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 supersolid transition is important because supersolids are still controversial. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Bose Einstein condensate may reveal supersolid’s secrets," 28 Nov. 2018 Much like The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Last Jedi was controversial among the fan base, but for very different reasons. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the franchise’s Attack of the Clones when it should be The Last Jedi," 27 Nov. 2018 The government gets a lot of grief because the individual heading the government is very controversial. Eric Johnson, Recode, "It’s time for Facebook’s board to step up," 23 Nov. 2018 Like so many American traditions, including Thanksgiving itself, its existence is controversial. Rachel Sugar, Vox, "Canned cranberry sauce, explained," 21 Nov. 2018 Adjacent is the Cyclorama building, which had originally been decorated with works by Johnson’s Pop artist friends—except Andy Warhol, whose contribution was too controversial. Mark Lamster, Curbed, "Arbiter of taste, enfant terrible: The best and worst of Philip Johnson," 6 Nov. 2018 Ichikawa’s film was controversial at the time and unsettled organizers who wanted a more traditional treatment of the Olympics rather than Ichikawa’s more poetic view. Stephen Wade, The Seattle Times, "Naomi Kawase named to direct 2020 Tokyo Olympic documentary," 23 Oct. 2018 Affirmative action policies in university admissions have been controversial since they were first implemented, with a number of challenges in court. Charlotte West, Teen Vogue, "What You Need to Know about Race and College Admissions," 27 Sep. 2018 From the timing of his nomination in the midst of the Mueller investigation to his dangerous stance on Roe v. Wade, Kavanaugh's hearings have been incredibly controversial. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Kavanaugh Protests Have Made It to New York Fashion Week," 7 Sep. 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

4 Dec 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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living or existing for a long time

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