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 But this less controversial Hillary does leave Sittenfeld free to settle certain debates. Nora Caplan-bricker, The New Yorker, "Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Rodham” Offers the Catharsis of Uncomplicated Regret," 17 May 2020 The deal also promotes Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a controversial former vice president to Mr. Ghani and current backer of Mr. Abdullah, to the highest military rank, marshal. Mujib Mashal, New York Times, "Afghan Rivals Sign Power-Sharing Deal as Political Crisis Subsides," 17 May 2020 The man, myth and legend For the last 60 years, the stories about the complicated and controversial ballplayer with a fiery temper have been constantly repeated, and, at times, sensationalized and bobbled. Bill Dow, Detroit Free Press, "90 years ago, Detroit Tigers legend Ty Cobb challenged myths of being maniacal racist," 16 May 2020 Venice's controversial plan to impose a tax on day-trippers has been put aside — and many object that any such system would give the city even more of a theme park air. Colleen Barry, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus lockdown gives Venice a chance to reimagine tourism," 16 May 2020 While most of her contemporaries saw the treatment as controversial and dangerous, Catherine and her son responded well to the inoculation. Suyin Haynes, Time, "The Great Is Only 'Occasionally' True. But These Aspects of Hulu's Catherine the Great Series Are Based in History," 15 May 2020 Half a century ago the idea that dog owners should pick up their pet’s waste was so controversial that in New York City one prominent figure in the debate had a plastic bag of droppings thrown in her face at a public meeting. Lydia Denworth, Scientific American, "Masks Reveal New Social Norms: What a Difference a Plague Makes," 14 May 2020 Some wonder why this controversial insulin varietal is still on the market. Audrey Farley, The New Republic, "The Nonprofit Grifters Who Want a Cut of the Coronavirus Bailout," 14 May 2020 Since his first press briefing March 2 to extending the statewide stay-at-home order on April 29, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has filled a momentous, and at times controversial, timeline of actions regarding the new coronavirus. Taylor Seely, azcentral, "Gaggle podcast: Gov. Doug Ducey and the politics of reopening Arizona," 13 May 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

21 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Controversial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 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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