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

Definition of gainsay

transitive verb

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

Other Words from gainsay

gainsayer noun

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

Did you know?

You might have trouble figuring out "gainsay" if you're thinking of our modern "gain" plus "say." It might help to know that the "gain-" part is actually related to "against." In Old English, gēan- meant "against." From that came the Middle English "gain-." "Gain-" was joined with "sayen" ("say") to form "gainsayen," the Middle English predecessor of "gainsay." So when you see "gainsay," think "say against" - that is, "deny" or "contradict." When you do happen to come across "gainsay," it's likely to be in literature. "Gainsay" is a literary, somewhat old-fashioned word that isn't heard much in everyday modern speech.

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 And if the judges are ever to gainsay the popular will with just cause, their institutional independence is the bulwark of their authority to do so. Matthew J. Franck, National Review, 12 Sep. 2021 Great poems often gainsay in the very act of saying. Matthew Bevis, The New York Review of Books, 26 Sep. 2020 Some of the yo-yoing on display has been the product of mindless, gainsaying partisanship. Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, 16 Apr. 2020 Yet what’s most original in the film is Mercier’s scathing and self-scourging performance (and there’s no gainsaying the importance of Yoav’s outfit, a collarless saffron-yellow coat). Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 26 Sep. 2019 Crime waves are often linked to economic downturns, but this hypothesis is gainsaid by counterexamples, such as the relatively low crime rates during the 1930s depression and the 2008–2010 recession. Michael Shermer, Scientific American, 1 Nov. 2018 The courage and cleverness in staying in power for so long cannot be gainsaid. The Economist, 7 Sep. 2019 But there’s no gainsaying his historic significance. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 19 Aug. 2019 Her role in passing the Affordable Care Act was absolutely heroic and should not be gainsaid. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 18 July 2019

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gainsay

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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Gainsay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of gainsay

: to deny or disagree with (something) : to show or say that (something) is not true


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