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 The school had many events scheduled, including a controversial speech by actress and activist Jane Fonda and a benefit concert featuring Joe Walsh and David Crosby. Emily Bamforth, cleveland, "Kent State University cancels May 4 50th remembrance events due to coronavirus threat," 23 Mar. 2020 Midstream: Kinder Morgan obtains final pieces of right of way for controversial pipeline Kinder Morgan is not out of the woods yet. Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle, "Federal judge sides with Kinder Morgan in Hill Country fight," 23 Mar. 2020 Africa’s most populous city, Lagos, has is in the process of trying to implement a lockdown while Guinea looks set to carry on with a controversial referendum on Sunday. Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu, Quartz Africa, "Four government ministers have contracted coronavirus in Burkina Faso and it’s spreading rapidly," 22 Mar. 2020 Florida's Clearwater Beach is also closing on Monday, so don't expect many more controversial spring breakers. CNN, "Start your Monday smart: Coronavirus, G7, Stimulus deal," 22 Mar. 2020 The controversial facial recognition startup Clearview AI is reportedly in talks with state officials to use its software to identify anyone in contact with people who are infected. Sidney Fussell, Wired, "How Surveillance Could Save Lives Amid a Public Health Crisis," 21 Mar. 2020 The subject of Dakich's controversial dialogue involved the firing of Scottsburg varsity coach Brent Jameson. Dana Hunsinger Benbow, Indianapolis Star, "Dan Dakich under investigation for comments on Scottsburg basketball coach firing," 20 Mar. 2020 Department of Environmental Conservation officials received a mixed bag of comments, but not a huge volume, to their somewhat controversial opening of the state’s oil spill prevention and response regulations to possible revisions. Author: Elwood Brehmer, Anchorage Daily News, "Public comments on revising Alaska oil spill response range from status quo to modernization," 19 Mar. 2020 Prior to her presidential campaign, the congresswoman was perhaps best known for a controversial 2017 trip to Syria to meet with al-Assad. Nataly Pak, ABC News, "Tulsi Gabbard: Everything you need to know about the 2020 presidential candidate," 19 Mar. 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 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Controversial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Apr. 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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Comments on controversial

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