discourse

noun
dis·​course | \ ˈdis-ˌkȯrs How to pronounce discourse (audio) , dis-ˈkȯrs\

Definition of discourse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : verbal interchange of ideas especially : conversation
2a : formal and orderly and usually extended expression of thought on a subject
b : connected speech or writing
c : a linguistic unit (such as a conversation or a story) larger than a sentence
3 : a mode of organizing knowledge, ideas, or experience that is rooted in language and its concrete contexts (such as history or institutions) critical discourse
4 archaic : the capacity of orderly thought or procedure : rationality
5 obsolete : social familiarity

discourse

verb
discoursed; discoursing

Definition of discourse (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to express oneself especially in oral discourse
2 : talk, converse

transitive verb

archaic : to give forth : utter

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Other Words from discourse

Verb

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The First Amendment protects political speech; pushing boundaries to test the limits of civil discourse is something very different. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Book tells the inside story of how Reddit came to be the Internet’s “id”," 30 Dec. 2018 Organizations such as the Bridge Alliance, Listen First Project, and Living Room Conversations have spent years encouraging civil political discourse. Ledyard King, USA TODAY, "One group tries to lower the volume on the high-decibel noise that's further dividing a polarized nation," 17 June 2018 Some argue that the president’s impact on legislation is worth his baleful effect on the tone and temper of political discourse. Joseph Epstein, WSJ, "If Trump Were a Poet, He’d Be Rudyard Kipling," 26 Dec. 2018 Before marchers even converged on Washington, the organizers had brought that concept to the forefront of American discourse. Anna North, Vox, "The Women’s March changed the American left. Now anti-Semitism allegations threaten the group’s future.," 21 Dec. 2018 One of the things that the platforms are looking at now is this notion of healthy discourse. Recode Staff, Recode, "Full transcript: Data for Democracy policy head Renée DiResta answers disinformation questions on Too Embarrassed to Ask," 14 July 2018 One upside for sports fans, Musburger notes, is an overall smarter level of discourse. Rick Maese, chicagotribune.com, "A safe bet: Legal gambling could change the way we watch, talk and experience sports," 5 July 2018 This moment in history has accompanied a vast proliferation of misinformation amid the degradation of public discourse. Alexander Heffner, Time, "The American Historical Record Includes Court Cases, Famous Speeches—And Trump’s Tweets. Here’s Why That Matters," 2 July 2018 Which is a failure not merely of discourse, but of progress. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "The Self-Defeating Ways Americans Talk About Feminism," 29 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

That book opens with a group of Cambridge youths discoursing prettily on the existence of a cow on a riverbank. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Alan Hollinghurst’s Long Journey," 30 Mar. 2018 On the way there, Ed discoursed on Hebrew dialects in the Biblical era, which led to a lively discussion of some arcane points of Catholic Church governance. Fred Schwarz, National Review, "Bill Buckley’s Last Supper," 10 Feb. 2018 Similar themes are discernable in US discourses occurring after and in reaction to the first Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani nuclear tests. Terrell Jermaine Starr, The Root, "Why We Should Fear a North Korean Nuclear Attack, Explained," 2 Oct. 2017 Shaffer's play opens with Lettice Douffet, a classically quirky old-lady character, discoursing on the history of a stately British home. Christopher Arnott, courant.com, "Westport's 'Lettice & Lovage' Delightfully Messes With Your Head," 7 June 2017 In his weekly addresses to the nation, Gen. Prayuth has discoursed on subjects ranging from the best way to cook rice to gardening tips. James Hookway, WSJ, "Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Set to Gain Clout in Royal Succession," 17 Oct. 2016 The freedoms to live out your true sexual identity or use a bathroom without being discriminated against are not akin to discourse about the Trans-Pacific Partnership or Super PACs. Sarah Rense, Esquire, "Sam Bee Is at the Top of Her Game, So of Course a Columnist Tries to Take Her Down," 21 Sep. 2016 Lately, I’ve also written a lot about free speech, academic freedom, and norms around discourse on college campuses. Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, "The Lessons of Bygone Free-Speech Fights," 10 Dec. 2015

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

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Verb

1547, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for discourse

Noun

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.

Verb

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

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Statistics for discourse

Last Updated

13 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for discourse

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

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More Definitions for discourse

discourse

noun

English Language Learners Definition of discourse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

formal
: the use of words to exchange thoughts and ideas
: a long talk or piece of writing about a subject

discourse

verb

English Language Learners Definition of discourse (Entry 2 of 2)

formal : to talk about something especially for a long time

discourse

noun
dis·​course | \ ˈdis-ˌkȯrs How to pronounce discourse (audio) \

Kids Definition of discourse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

2 : a long talk or essay about a subject

discourse

verb
dis·​course | \ dis-ˈkȯrs How to pronounce discourse (audio) \
discoursed; discoursing

Kids Definition of discourse (Entry 2 of 2)

: to talk especially for a long time

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Comments on discourse

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