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 led to the famous polemic in The Spectator in January in 1964 by Iain Macleod, a senior Tory who had declined to serve under Sir Alec Douglas-Home, as Home had become known after renouncing his peerage. Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The New Republic, 9 Aug. 2022 Evans’s work sidesteps both polemic and propaganda. Garth Greenwell, The New Yorker, 15 Feb. 2022 Win at All Costs is, in effect, a 350-page polemic which argues that the NOP’s transgressions are consistent with a ruthless Nike ethos where the ends always justify the means. Martin Fritz Huber, Outside Online, 2 Oct. 2020 Such falsehoods aside, the most interesting aspect of Lavrov's polemic relates to his throwaway comments about Zelensky. Anthony D. Kauders, CNN, 5 May 2022 In her barnstorming environmental polemic Silent Spring, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, Rachel Carson fired a broadside against the unfettered use of chemicals by agricultural giants. Shely Aronov, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2022 His polemic appeared in the pan-African magazine Bingo, during preparations for the 1966 World Festival of Black Arts, in Dakar—a cultural début pageant for the continent’s newly independent nations. Julian Lucas, The New Yorker, 14 Apr. 2022 Many years ago, Jonathan Chait wrote a polemic in The New Republic arguing that Delaware was the worst state, for, among other things, its friendliness to corporate interest and its extremely loose regulatory standards. The Politics Of Everything, The New Republic, 27 Oct. 2021 Madonna is Susan, a scrappy downtown hustler who has gotten herself embroiled in a vague scandal involving the Atlantic City mob (a subplot treated with such indifference that the film practically becomes a polemic about narrative priorities). Alison Willmore, Vulture, 6 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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

17 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Polemic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polemic. Accessed 19 Aug. 2022.

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

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!