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 Without going on too much of a polemic about it, it must be said that on the beach in the summer of 2024 there is no excuse for you as a man to wear a swimsuit that sits anywhere close to your knee. Charlie Hobbs, Condé Nast Traveler, 18 Apr. 2024 Other people had a problem with my U.S. citizenship because of the political polemic between Nixon’s office’s involvement in the very violent Chilean military coup. Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for polemic 

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 30 May. 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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