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

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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 The title of Masha Gessen’s polemic about the Trump presidency is Surviving Autocracy. Hari Kunzru, The New York Review of Books, "Democracy’s Red Line," 4 June 2020 The New York Times casts such polemics in a sinister light. Jonathan S. Tobin, National Review, "Some Conspiracy Theories Are More Equal Than Others," 24 Apr. 2020 Ordinarily this week’s San Francisco Planning Commission meeting would feature all the passion and polemics that makes land use politics in San Francisco such a blood sport. J.k. Dineen, SFChronicle.com, "SF housing debates go online as Planning Commission meets virtually," 6 Apr. 2020 Still, this tough-minded, forthright and exquisitely tender film transcends polemics. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ Review: Life or Death in Few Words," 12 Mar. 2020 In short, Cahiers balances French cinema and world cinema, the art and the economy of filmmaking, the politics of images, and the prominent and hidden histories of cinema—and does so with a frank commitment to advocacy and polemics. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "What’s at Stake in the Takeover of Cahiers du Cinéma," 6 Mar. 2020 The Magnificent Ambersons, Tarkington’s 1918 novel that Welles would film so stunningly in 1942, was no sentimental tour but a simmering polemic against the forces of industry and greed that had befouled that world. Adina Hoffman, The New York Review of Books, "Geoffrey O’Brien," 18 Apr. 2019 The goal isn’t to write polemics, but songs that will touch people and not immediately feel dated. Washington Post, "Southern band takes on Trump as impeachment vote nears," 1 Feb. 2020 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

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for polemic

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The first known use of polemic was in 1626

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Last Updated

17 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Polemic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polemic. Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for polemic


How to pronounce polemic (audio)

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

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