1 of 2


dis·​course ˈdi-ˌskȯrs How to pronounce discourse (audio)
: verbal interchange of ideas
especially : conversation
: formal and orderly and usually extended expression of thought on a subject
: connected speech or writing
: a linguistic unit (such as a conversation or a story) larger than a sentence
: a mode of organizing knowledge, ideas, or experience that is rooted in language and its concrete contexts (such as history or institutions)
critical discourse
archaic : the capacity of orderly thought or procedure : rationality
obsolete : social familiarity


2 of 2


discoursed; discoursing

intransitive verb

: to express oneself especially in oral discourse

transitive verb

archaic : to give forth : utter
discourser noun

Examples of discourse in a Sentence

Noun Hans Selye, a Czech physician and biochemist at the University of Montreal, took these ideas further, introducing the term "stress" (borrowed from metallurgy) to describe the way trauma caused overactivity of the adrenal gland, and with it a disruption of bodily equilibrium. In the most extreme case, Selye argued, stress could wear down the body's adaptation mechanisms, resulting in death. His narrative fit well into the cultural discourse of the cold-war era, where, Harrington writes, many saw themselves as "broken by modern life." Jerome Groopman, New York Times Book Review, 27 Jan. 2008
Such is the exquisite refinement of American political discourse in the early 21st century. Brad Friedman, Mother Jones, January & February 2006
Literature records itself, shows how its records might be broken, and how the assumptions of a given discourse or culture might thereby be challenged. Shakespeare is, again, the great example. Richard Poirier, Raritan Reading, 1990
He likes to engage in lively discourse with his visitors. She delivered an entertaining discourse on the current state of the film industry. Verb The most energetic ingredients in a Ken Burns documentary are the intervals of commentary, the talking heads of historians, sociologists, and critics coming at us in living color and discoursing volubly. Richard Alleva, Commonweal, 22 Feb. 2002
Clarke had discoursed knowledgeably on the implications of temperature for apples; it was too cool here for … Winesaps, or Granny Smiths, none of which mature promptly enough to beat autumn's first freeze. David Guterson, Harper's, October 1999
… Bill Clinton was up in the sky-box suites, giving interviews. So The Baltimore Sun's guy on the job was Carl Cannon and he took notes while Clinton discoursed on the importance of Ripken's streak, the value of hard work, the lessons communicated to our youth in a nation troubled by blah blah blah. Richard Ben Cramer, Newsweek, 22 Mar. 1999
She could discourse for hours on almost any subject. the guest lecturer discoursed at some length on the long-term results of the war See More
Recent Examples on the Web
What is so remarkable here is that hundreds of readers had civil discourse unbidden. Cquinn, cleveland, 16 Sep. 2023 The duo chose to pit humans against AI because the emerging technology had been a big part of the discourse at the beginning of the year. Steven Vargas, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2023 Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research has laid off an undisclosed number of staff members, just over three years after its promising launch to reshape the national discourse on racial and ethnic disparities. Nick Stoico, BostonGlobe.com, 15 Sep. 2023 The final declaration of New Delhi’s Group of 20 summit carried no mention of Russia in the language about the war in Ukraine — which has dominated discourse in the West since its start a year and a half ago. Karishma Mehrotra, Washington Post, 11 Sep. 2023 Beware politicians who ignore causation and pivot to mitigation Political spending has foisted relentless gun and climate disinformation campaigns on the public, followed by smoke and mirrors to deflect the discourse away from causation and toward mitigation. Sabrina Haake, Chicago Tribune, 9 Sep. 2023 The current right-wing discourse positing that child-free women represent a major threat to the future of the American family is somewhat unique, in that it’s often paired with a seemingly totally antithetical claim: that women with children warrant our suspicion as well. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 6 Sep. 2023 The difficulty is that contemporary discourse has little patience with maddening contradictions of the kind that Wagner embodies. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 2 Sep. 2023 In the early 1960s, when Harrington published his book, poor people were hardly part of political discourse at all; today, there are few who would be so naïve as to claim to simply not know poverty exists in American society. Kim Phillips-Fein, The New Republic, 28 Aug. 2023
Going to Valdai—the annual conference where Vladimir Putin pretends to be a wise tsar interested in discoursing with professors on international politics—had become somewhat controversial. Keith Gessen, The New Yorker, 29 Aug. 2023 These attempts to discourse fictional characters to death were conducted in Character. Elizabeth Minkel, WIRED, 28 Aug. 2023 The incident led to discourse within the Pakistani and South Asian community regarding the use of P-ki as a slur weaponized abroad to diminish their sense of self-worth and belonging. Neena Rouhani, Billboard, 6 Apr. 2023 Those qualities reflected not just in the appearance of, or discourse around, these cultural products, but in the execution of the products themselves. Rachel Tashjian, Harper's BAZAAR, 22 Feb. 2023 Harassment, even if technically not against the law, is wrong and corrosive to discourse. Arkansas Online, 6 Sep. 2020 That means the College Football Playoff’s four-team system that was introduced in 2014 and has become part of Alabama fans’ discourse each November will end after the upcoming 2023 season. Mike Rodak | Mrodak@al.com, al, 1 Dec. 2022 But like art made in other arenas, prison art exists in relation to economies, power structures governing resources and access, and discourses that legitimate certain works as art and others as craft, material object, historical artifact, or trash. Nicole R. Fleetwood, The New York Review of Books, 28 Apr. 2020 Backed by a five-piece band, Janelle McDermoth discourses on life, death and the arguable usefulness of art. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, 20 Feb. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'discourse.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English discours "capacity for reasoning," borrowed (with assimilation to cours course entry 1 and other derivatives) from Medieval Latin discursus, going back to Late Latin, "exchange of ideas," going back to Latin, "action of running in different directions," from discurrere "to run off in different directions, (of the mind or a speaker) branch out, range," from dis- dis- + currere "to run" — more at current entry 1

Note: For formation of the verbal noun cursus see etymology and note at course entry 1.


derivative of discourse entry 1, in part after Middle French discourir "to treat, deal with," descourir "to converse"

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1547, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of discourse was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near discourse

Cite this Entry

“Discourse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discourse. Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
dis·​course ˈdis-ˌkō(ə)rs How to pronounce discourse (audio)
: a long talk or composition about a subject


2 of 2 verb
dis·​course dis-ˈkō(ə)rs How to pronounce discourse (audio) -ˈkȯ(ə)rs How to pronounce discourse (audio)
discoursed; discoursing
: to talk especially for a long time

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