dis·​course | \ ˈdi-ˌskȯrs How to pronounce discourse (audio) , di-ˈskȯrs \

Essential Meaning of discourse

1 : the use of words to exchange thoughts and ideas It's a word that doesn't have much use in ordinary discourse. [=conversation] He likes to engage in lively discourse with his visitors. public/political discourse
2 : a long talk or piece of writing about a subject She delivered an entertaining discourse on the current state of the film industry.

Full 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


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


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 For some, his death was seen as the knell of an era of civility and respect in the sphere of political discourse, which has dissipated in recent years. Tracy Wilkinson Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 18 Oct. 2021 The Taliban came from a rural, deeply conservative setting -- where their perception of religious purity and pious cultural traditions outweighed anything the modern world could offer: education, technology, discourse, the very idea of choice. Nic Robertson And Tim Lister, CNN, 14 Oct. 2021 This is a response to the toxic and cynical culture out there, especially social media, the political discourse, how people speak to each other. New York Times, 14 July 2021 As more news about Operation Varsity Blues was revealed to the public, the comments section of her YouTube vlogs and Instagram posts were full of discourse (good and bad) about her involvement in the federal investigation. Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, 12 July 2021 The discourse and censorship of scientific debate, including the journal publication process, tech-company censorship, political interference, and slander and smearing within the scientific community. Martin Kulldorff And Jay Bhattacharya, WSJ, 27 June 2021 Roder explains that the event has always been centered on civil discourse, which in today’s polarized environment may be more relevant than ever. Washington Post, 1 June 2021 Jennifer Lopez officially ends the discourse (and her relationship) in a statement to the Associated Press. Zoe Haylock, Vulture, 20 May 2021 The idea of reparations wasn’t a hard sell in the predominantly white Chicago suburb of about 74,000 that’s known for liberal activism, intellectual discourse, and Northwestern University. Sophia Tareen, The Christian Science Monitor, 7 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 In a 2016 article, Krauze discoursed on populism: The term has different meanings, or at least overtones, in different regions of the world and in different political traditions. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 6 Mar. 2020 In the audience plump dignitaries in bright orange turbans sat comfortably on white leather armchairs, discoursing on the spectacle. The Economist, 25 Oct. 2019 Knights, serfs, monks, men-at-arms, artisans, and shopkeepers traveled these pungent ways, discoursing loudly in decayed Latic and foreign tongues ranging from English to Syrian. Bruce Dale, National Geographic, 17 Apr. 2019 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, 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, 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, 2 Oct. 2017

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1547, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for discourse


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"

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Learn More About discourse

Time Traveler for discourse

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near discourse

discouraging card


discourse analysis

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Last Updated

22 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Discourse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discourse. Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for discourse


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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on discourse

Nglish: Translation of discourse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of discourse for Arabic Speakers


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