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

Past award ceremonies have spurred some of the most controversial and debated moments in fashion. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "11 Oscars Looks That Caused a Stir," 22 Feb. 2019 Lynnea, 18, was one of the most controversial contestants on The Voice last year. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "Kelly Clarkson Shocked Fans by Singing With a Controversial 'Voice' Star at Her Concert," 28 Jan. 2019 Nearly two months after her hour of Today was canceled (following her controversial remarks about blackface), Megyn Kelly is now speaking out about what she's been up to since going off air. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Here's What Megyn Kelly Is Doing Now That She's No Longer on 'Today'," 18 Dec. 2018 But, in true Internet style, Twitter could not miss the opportunity to meme Scarry's controversial remarks, using examples from pop culture—from The Devil Wears Prada to Kendall Jenner wearing Balenciaga—to mock his original tweet. Isabel Greenberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "Twitter Is Dragging This Tone-Deaf Tweet About Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Coat and Jacket," 16 Nov. 2018 The next day, however, Macdonald continued his streak of controversial remarks. Katherine Lam, Fox News, "Norm Macdonald apologizes for Down syndrome comments amid controversial remarks," 13 Sep. 2018 And as my colleague Anna North noted Wednesday, this isn’t the first time that a tape would reveal Trump making controversial remarks. P.r. Lockhart, Vox, "The debate over Donald Trump’s alleged n-word tape, explained," 16 Aug. 2018 Schnatter stepped down as the company’s CEO at the end of last year, following his controversial remarks about the NFL protests against police brutality. David Meyer, Fortune, "Papa John's Chair John Schnatter Resigns After Using the N-Word," 12 July 2018 Craig, a Democrat, won in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, unseating Republican Rep. Jason Lewis, who came under fire for controversial sexist and racist comments, according to Huffington Post. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "20 Big Firsts and Historic Wins from the 2018 Midterm Elections," 7 Nov. 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

13 Mar 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

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a flaw that causes the downfall of a hero

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