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

Other Words from polemic

polemicist \ pə-​ˈle-​mə-​sist How to pronounce polemic (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 This isn’t a polemic against police and prosecutors. Mark Shanahan, BostonGlobe.com, 30 Dec. 2021 In Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky used the public’s appetite for crime stories as a kind of Trojan horse, a way to launch a polemic under the guise of titillation. Jennifer Wilson, The New Republic, 28 Dec. 2021 What ensues is a wildly humorous nightmare—a fantastically bizarre polemic on modern day morality. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 24 Dec. 2021 As early as 1923, the Presbyterian theologian J. Gresham Machen published a blistering polemic on Christianity and Liberalism that remains influential. Samuel Goldman, The Week, 16 July 2021 Although most Democrats departed for the evening shortly after midnight, McCarthy continued to speak for roughly five more hours, in a polemic intended to rally Republicans around his leadership after a difficult two weeks for the party. Grace Segers, The New Republic, 19 Nov. 2021 What’s more original to Pagels’s book is the view that Revelation is essentially an anti-Christian polemic. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 9 Aug. 2021 During the January school board meeting, Ms. Stern compared the polemic to the riot that month at the U.S. Capitol. New York Times, 30 June 2021 Russell Jacoby’s 1987 polemic, The Last Intellectuals, decried the loss of serious public thinkers as cushy universities swallowed up bohemian avant-gardists. Ian Beacock, The New Republic, 7 June 2021

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near polemic

pole mast



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for polemic

Last Updated

25 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Polemic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polemic. Accessed 29 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for polemic



English Language Learners Definition of polemic

: 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


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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