1 of 2


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


2 of 2


debated; debating

transitive verb

: to argue about
the subject was hotly debated
: to engage (an opponent) in debate
a governor debating her challenger
: 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

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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Since 2020, the case became a heated topic of debate among hip-hop fans, many of whom took sides and engaged in discussions on social media, but hip-hop artists – even those who had close relationships with Megan Thee Stallion – were largely silent. Deena Zaru, ABC News, 13 Jan. 2023 The usefulness of monthly breast self-exams, which doctors had promoted for more than 30 years, has recently been a matter of debate within the medical community. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Jan. 2023 Another priority for Republicans, which will see a lot of debate this year, is cutting federal spending. Candy Woodall, USA TODAY, 12 Jan. 2023 The bears’ protection under the ESA continues to be a matter of intense debate. Kennedy Elliott, Ryan Williams, National Geographic, 12 Jan. 2023 Guns have been at the center of the debate as the nation grapples with homicides that spiked nationally in 2020 and as recent polls showed that Americans are increasingly concerned about crime. Russ Bynum, CBS News, 11 Jan. 2023 Canada is in the middle of heated debate as it is expected to move further in March when MAiD could become available to those with mental health disorders as the sole justifying condition. Dominique Soguel, The Christian Science Monitor, 10 Jan. 2023 Since her death, Ditlevsen’s literary legacy has been a source of debate. Nina Siegal, New York Times, 10 Jan. 2023 Diving into this subject, one learns that the terms of the debate are hardly new. Sean Elder, Town & Country, 8 Jan. 2023
Each week, our food journalists dish, debate and analyze local restaurant news, food and drink trends, tips for cooking and shopping, and other obsessions. Dallas News, 12 Jan. 2023 With limited time to debate their options, the women assemble in a barn for long stretches of discussion. Karen M. Peterson, Variety, 12 Jan. 2023 And Twellman is knowledgeable, versatile, and engaging enough to continue to be a welcome contributor to debate and studio shows. Chad Finn,, 7 Jan. 2023 Jordan was nominated in the third round by Roy, who said the House has rarely met in such large numbers for such a long time to debate. Yael Halon, Fox News, 3 Jan. 2023 Should Republicans remain gridlocked after several ballots, many lawmakers and aides expect the conference to call an emergency meeting to debate in private. WSJ, 3 Jan. 2023 Rape is never alienated from the experience of its victims; it need not be carefully phrased for public consumption, and it cannot be flattened into an issue for others to debate. Amanda Hess, New York Times, 31 Dec. 2022 Over the course of a tense two-day period, the women convene in a hayloft to debate their options: do nothing, stay and fight or leave. Meredith Blakestaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 22 Dec. 2022 During games, Daboll has a direct line to Knox and Siam to debate in real time. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, 19 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


Verb and Noun

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

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined above


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

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

Dictionary Entries Near debate

Cite this Entry

“Debate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
de·​bate di-ˈbāt How to pronounce debate (audio)
: a verbal argument: as
: the discussion of a motion before a legislature
: a regulated discussion of a problem between two matched sides


2 of 2 verb
debated; debating
: to discuss or examine a question often publicly by presenting and considering arguments on both sides
: to take part in a debate
: to present or consider the reasons for and against : consider
debater noun

More from Merriam-Webster on debate

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