po·​lem·​ic pə-ˈle-mik How to pronounce polemic (audio)
: an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another
: the art or practice of disputation or controversy
usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction
: an aggressive controversialist : disputant
polemicist noun

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When polemic was borrowed into English from French polemique in the mid-17th century, it referred (as it still can) to a type of hostile attack on someone's ideas. The word traces back to Greek polemikos, which means "warlike" or "hostile" and in turn comes from the Greek noun polemos, meaning "war." Other, considerably less common descendants of polemos in English include polemarch ("a chieftain or military commander in ancient Greece"), polemoscope (a kind of binoculars with an oblique mirror), and polemology ("the study of war").

Examples of polemic in a Sentence

Her book is a fierce polemic against the inequalities in our society. They managed to discuss the issues without resorting to polemics.
Recent Examples on the Web The environment is made subservient to the polemic. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 What is missing from the dollarization critics’ polemics is any grasp of basic economic principles, common sense, other countries’ experiences with dollarization, and an understanding of Argentina’s history and its current predicament. Emilio Ocampo, National Review, 18 Oct. 2023 Yet the book remains instructive because, as with so many polemics, a flawed central premise hints at some important truths. Hans Kundnani, Foreign Affairs, 24 Oct. 2023 As numerous scholars have shown, social platforms that are engineered to reach (and serve ads to) as many people as possible are built to incentivize inflammatory content: violent stuff, the polemics, the sensational fakes. Brian Merchant, Los Angeles Times, 20 Oct. 2023 The radical polemics of the panels must have seemed incendiary in the 1930s. David Lyon, BostonGlobe.com, 15 Sep. 2023 But the absence of public polemics can be deceiving. Karin Brulliard, Washington Post, 23 Oct. 2023 This usefully allows the material to be less of a period piece — because, happily for Sister Helen, her polemic is somewhat dated. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, 27 Sep. 2023 Noname began what was supposed to be her third full-length, a planned polemic about communism and socialism called Factory Baby, in the waning days of pandemic isolation, but ended up scrapping the concept entirely. Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Pitchfork, 18 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


French polémique, from Middle French, from polemique controversial, from Greek polemikos warlike, hostile, from polemos war; perhaps akin to Greek pelemizein to shake, Old English ealfelo baleful

First Known Use

1626, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of polemic was in 1626


Dictionary Entries Near polemic

Cite this Entry

“Polemic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polemic. Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


po·​lem·​ic pə-ˈlem-ik How to pronounce polemic (audio)
: an aggressive attack on the opinions or beliefs of another
also polemic
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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