polemic

noun
po·​lem·​ic | \ pə-ˈle-mik How to pronounce polemic (audio) \

Definition of polemic

1a : an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another
b : the art or practice of disputation or controversy usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction
2 : an aggressive controversialist : disputant

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from polemic

polemicist \ pə-​ˈle-​mə-​sist How to pronounce polemicist (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

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 Maybe the book’s most ingenious trick, though, is that its reflections on race and feminism hardly ever feel like polemics; there’s just too much pure vivid life on every page. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, "Booker Prize winner Girl, Woman, Other is an essential novel of race and gender: Review," 3 Dec. 2019 Chin’s first poem is a polemic against President Donald Trump, which elicits yells of support along with sharp laughs and applause. Abigail Abrams, Time, "'We Are Grabbing Our Own Microphones': How Advocates of Reproductive Justice Stepped Into the Spotlight," 21 Nov. 2019 Newspapers and magazines are full of reassessments of the Wiedervereinigung (reunification); westerners are lapping up memoirs and polemics by eastern authors. The Economist, "Germans still don’t agree on what reunification meant," 31 Oct. 2019 Notwithstanding the Times’ political leaning, the placement of her polemic against the president in the Calendar section of the paper seems inappropriate. Los Angeles Times, "Calendar Feedback Sun., Oct. 13, 2019," 11 Oct. 2019 Most notably, the recent and not-so-recent past was revisited again and again, not to exploit simple nostalgia but to illuminate present-day realities that hovered over nearly every movie - whether fiction or nonfiction, polemic or pure escapism. cleveland.com, "At the Toronto International Film Festival, movies grapple with a confounding present by revisiting the past," 13 Sep. 2019 Most notably, the recent and not-so-recent past was revisited again and again, not to exploit simple nostalgia but to illuminate present-day realities that hovered over nearly every movie - whether fiction or nonfiction, polemic or pure escapism. cleveland.com, "At the Toronto International Film Festival, movies grapple with a confounding present by revisiting the past," 13 Sep. 2019 In the 1880s, says Perdue, during a moment of Chinese backlash against foreign interference, a prominent Canton merchant came out with a best-selling polemic against free trade. Yoni Wilkenfeld, Quartz, "From tea to iPhones, US-China trade tensions span centuries," 6 Nov. 2019 Carson’s great elegy and polemic, which followed pesticides through their whole cycle of destruction, ignored the mainly Latino farm workers of California and Florida, who were directly exposed to pesticides in their work in the fields. Will Meyer, Longreads, "A Green New Jail," 24 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'polemic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of polemic

1626, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for polemic

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about polemic

Time Traveler for polemic

Time Traveler

The first known use of polemic was in 1626

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about polemic

Statistics for polemic

Last Updated

9 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Polemic.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polemic. Accessed 14 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for polemic

polemic

noun
How to pronounce polemic (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of polemic

formal
: a strong written or spoken attack against someone else's opinions, beliefs, practices, etc.
: the art or practice of using language to defend or harshly criticize something or someone

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on polemic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with polemic

Nglish: Translation of polemic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of polemic for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about polemic

Comments on polemic

What made you want to look up polemic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to assail by words or arguments

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble tiles that read scrabble quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!