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

This week's Talking Tech podcasts Yolo: USA TODAY's Madeline Purdue on the hottest, and most controversial app of the year. Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY, "YouTube just made it easier to quit your job," 13 July 2019 China’s Three Gorges Dam, the world’s biggest and most controversial hydropower structure, was rumored to have been cracking and splitting as people posted satellite images of the structure last week. Fox News, "Integrity of China’s Three Gorges Dam questioned despite officials dismissing it as safe," 11 July 2019 In his most controversial maneuver, Menem fixed the exchange rate of the Argentine peso to the American dollar one to one. Adam Bernstein, Washington Post, "Fernando de la Rúa, Argentine leader who fled office besieged by riots, dies at 81," 9 July 2019 But Harris hasn’t embraced the plan’s most controversial features, such as a federal job guarantee for every working-age American. Doyle Mcmanus,, "Yes, she stuck it to Biden, but Harris’ positions are tough to pin down," 7 July 2019 Recently eliminated contestant Connor Saeli appeared on PeopleTV’s Reality Check and dished on this season’s most controversial contestant, Luke Parker. Jodi Guglielmi,, "The Bachelorette's Connor S. on Luke P.'s 'Unfortunate' Behavior: He 'Has Some Character Flaws'," 3 July 2019 The president then tweeted about one of the most controversial topics to be discussed over the next two nights: immigration. Mythili Sampathkumar, Fortune, "Will Trump Watch Tonight's Democratic Debate? He Says He's 'Off to Save the World!'," 27 June 2019 This data collection is the most controversial part of Sidewalk’s plan. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "Alphabet's Plan for Toronto Depends on Huge Amounts of Data," 24 June 2019 Probably one of the most controversial cars built in the United States in the last 60 years or so was the Chevrolet Corvair. David Krumboltz, The Mercury News, "Me & My Car: ’62 Corvair convertible hadn’t moved in 13 years," 24 June 2019

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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Statistics for controversial

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

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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 How to pronounce controversial (audio) \

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).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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