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 Shortly after the 2016 election, Breitbart News, then edited by Trump strategist Steve Bannon, published a lengthy polemic by an author using a pseudonym that claimed the existence of an entrenched, bureaucratic deep state at war with Trump. Barbara Spindel, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘In Deep’ disputes the notion of a ‘deep state’ conspiracy," 30 Apr. 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 Though legalized in several U.S. states for medicinal and recreational consumption, marijuana remains highly polemic, even more so when implemented to treat children. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, "Review: A father fights for the life of his son in the documentary ‘Waldo on Weed’," 8 Apr. 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

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

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Polemic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polemic. Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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

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

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
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!