de·​bate | \ di-ˈbāt How to pronounce debate (audio) , dē- \

Essential Meaning of debate

: a discussion between people in which they express different opinions about something The candidates participated in several debates before the election was held. Our polite chat about politics slowly turned into a heated debate. [=argument] See More ExamplesAt the center/core/heart of the debate [=controversy] is the question of responsibility. The meaning of the text has been the subject of considerable/intense/lively debate among scholars for many years. What topics will be under debate? [=debated]Hide

Full Definition of debate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a contention by words or arguments Our polite chat about politics became a heated debate. The case sparked a raging public debate on property rights. : such as
a : a regulated discussion of a proposition (see proposition entry 1 sense 1b) between two matched sides the last presidential debate before the election the debate's moderator
b law and government : the formal discussion of a motion (see motion entry 1 sense 3a) before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure


debated; debating

Definition of debate (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to argue about the subject was hotly debated
b : to engage (an opponent) in debate a governor debating her challenger
2 : to turn over in one's mind : to think about (something, such as different options) in order to decide still debating what to do

intransitive verb

1 : to participate in a debate the six primary candidates who debated last night
2a : to contend in words
b : to discuss a question by considering opposed arguments
3 obsolete : fight, contend

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Other Words from debate


debatement \ di-​ˈbāt-​mənt How to pronounce debate (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
debater noun

Choose the Right Synonym for debate


discuss, argue, debate mean to discourse about in order to reach conclusions or to convince. discuss implies a sifting of possibilities especially by presenting considerations pro and con. discussed the need for a new highway argue implies the offering of reasons or evidence in support of convictions already held. argued that the project would be too costly debate suggests formal or public argument between opposing parties debated the merits of the amendment ; it may also apply to deliberation with oneself. I'm debating whether I should go

Examples of debate in a Sentence

Noun The candidates participated in several debates before the election was held. The meaning of the text has been the subject of considerable debate among scholars for many years. Verb Scholars have been debating the meaning of the text for years. Whether or not the tax cuts benefit the lower classes is still hotly debated among economists. The energy bill is currently being debated in Congress. The President debated his challenger in front of a live audience on Tuesday. The students debated for an hour.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The masking provisions sparked emotional debate on the third and final day of the special session called by the Democratic governor to address the pandemic. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 11 Sep. 2021 In retrospect, Trump's rhetoric foreshadowed his introduction of violence into political debate, which culminated in his incitement of the mob that invaded the US Capitol inspired by his lies about election fraud. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 11 Sep. 2021 The offensive debate in Seattle — whether to run the ball or simply Let Russ Cook — might be decided by the Colts on Sunday. Joel A. Erickson, The Indianapolis Star, 11 Sep. 2021 After a heated debate in February, Delray Beach passed an ordinance banning panhandling in certain parts of the city but elected to have a six-month grace period before enacting punishments. Wells Dusenbury,, 11 Sep. 2021 The case raises questions about exactly when a cold case is considered cold enough to release the investigative files publicly and likely is destined for much further debate by both the judiciary and general assembly, Klau reasoned. Zach Murdock,, 11 Sep. 2021 The masking provisions sparked emotional debate on the third and final day of the special session called by the Democratic governor to address the pandemic. Bruce Schreiner, ajc, 10 Sep. 2021 China has held an internal debate between economic rationalism and economic nationalism for over 40 years, with nationalism gaining under President Xi Jinping. Frank Lavin, Forbes, 10 Sep. 2021 Sonia Winner, of Shaker Heights, has been elected to the 50 Club of Cleveland, a nonprofit group dedicated to furthering the understanding of pressing local, regional, and national issues through dialogue and debate. cleveland, 10 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Deciding war and peace, the most consequential topic any nation can debate, was suddenly handed over by Congress to the executive branch on a silver platter. Daniel Depetris, National Review, 11 Sep. 2021 Sure, mistakes were made, and decisions people can debate now and into eternity. John Archibald |, al, 11 Sep. 2021 When Joy Delaney goes missing, her four grown children debate what to tell the police – their father is the most obvious suspect, after all. Barbara Vandenburgh, USA TODAY, 11 Sep. 2021 While many of these grants, programs, and funding appear to have noble purposes, Congress should take time and debate the merit of such funding and ensure a depoliticized process for the awarding any such funds. Brian Blase, Forbes, 10 Sep. 2021 This will be the third time in recent years that lawmakers will debate the death penalty. Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Sep. 2021 The presidents still have to be briefed and debate the additions that have been endorsed by a Big 12 working group and conference ADs. Chuck Carlton, Dallas News, 5 Sep. 2021 At 21 songs and nearly 90 minutes, there’s a lot to enjoy and debate. Christian Hoard, Rolling Stone, 3 Sep. 2021 And yet there's still debate about whether to require masks in schools, transforming the issue from health to political. Amir Vera And Deidre Mcphillips, CNN, 1 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'debate.' 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 debate


13th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 3

History and Etymology for debate

Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French debatre, from de- + batre to beat, from Latin battuere

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Time Traveler for debate

Time Traveler

The first known use of debate was in the 13th century

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Last Updated

14 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Debate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for debate


de·​bate | \ di-ˈbāt How to pronounce debate (audio) \

Kids Definition of debate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a discussion or argument carried on between two teams or sides
2 : a discussion of issues We had a debate over where to go on vacation.


debated; debating

Kids Definition of debate (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to discuss a question by giving arguments on both sides : take part in a debate
2 : to consider reasons for and against : give serious and careful thought to Mrs. Welsch seemed to be debating whether to say what she finally did.— Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

Other Words from debate

debater noun

More from Merriam-Webster on debate

Nglish: Translation of debate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of debate for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about debate


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