gain·​say ˌgān-ˈsā How to pronounce gainsay (audio)
gainsaid ˌgān-ˈsād How to pronounce gainsay (audio)
; gainsaying ˌgān-ˈsā-iŋ How to pronounce gainsay (audio) ; gainsays ˌgān-ˈsāz How to pronounce gainsay (audio)

transitive verb

: to declare to be untrue or invalid
: contradict, oppose
did not dare to gainsay the king
gainsayer noun

Did you know?

You might have trouble figuring out the meaning of gainsay if you’re thinking of our modern word gain plus say. It should help to know that the gain part comes to us from the Old English word gēan-, meaning “against” or “in opposition to.” In Middle English, gēan- was joined to seyen (“to say”) to form gein-seyen, which led to the modern word gainsay. So when you see gainsay, think “to say against”—that is, “to deny” or “to contradict.”

Choose the Right Synonym for gainsay

deny, gainsay, contradict, contravene mean to refuse to accept as true or valid.

deny implies a firm refusal to accept as true, to grant or concede, or to acknowledge the existence or claims of.

denied the charges

gainsay implies disputing the truth of what another has said.

no one can gainsay her claims

contradict implies an open or flat denial.

her account contradicts his

contravene implies not so much an intentional opposition as some inherent incompatibility.

laws that contravene tradition

Examples of gainsay in a Sentence

it can't be gainsaid that most people wish they had more time and money repeatedly tried to gainsay me, though every point I made was backed up by facts
Recent Examples on the Web There’s a way to gainsay that impression — and inform voters of the rivals’ actual positions on the issues: Put the two candidates side by side on a debate stage for an extended period of time. Matthew Yglesias, Twin Cities, 31 Jan. 2024 For those who believe what their eyes tell them, it cannot be gainsaid that the plague of Jew hatred — always a reliable first symptom of a jihad against Western institutions — has been caused by the surrender of our education systems to the antinomian Left and the collapse of border security. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 21 Dec. 2023 It cannot be gainsaid that the FBI has brought these problems on itself. The Editors, National Review, 12 Dec. 2023 Pelosi in the House was where Alexandra first used show-trial video, making J6 the central illustration of feminist power, yet gainsaying her mother’s involvement in events of that day. Armond White, National Review, 25 Oct. 2023 None of this is to gainsay the help that western European allies have provided to Ukraine or to minimize the constraints that hamper them from doing more. A. Wess Mitchell, Foreign Affairs, 5 July 2023 There are a lot of arguments that can be put forward to gainsay the importance of this set of charges. Tyler Foggatt, The New Yorker, 17 June 2023 Who can gainsay it? Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 25 Jan. 2023 This is not to gainsay the book’s drama. Michael O’Donnell, WSJ, 24 Dec. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gainsay.' 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 yein seyen, gein-seyen "to speak in opposition to, deny," from yein-, gein- "away, back, against, in opposition to" (going back to Old English gēan- "in opposition to," or marking returning or reciprocal action, going back to Germanic *gagna-) + seyen "to say entry 1" — more at again

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of gainsay was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near gainsay

Cite this Entry

“Gainsay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


gain·​say gān-ˈsā How to pronounce gainsay (audio)
gainsaid -ˈsād How to pronounce gainsay (audio)
; gainsaying -ˈsā-iŋ How to pronounce gainsay (audio)
: to declare untrue : deny
: to speak against : contradict
gainsayer noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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