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 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 Take, for example, The Nation of Plants, a polemic in the guise of a plea. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "The Dark Side of the Houseplant Boom," 20 Apr. 2021 While Bradford later modulated his rhetoric somewhat — arguing that mandatory vaccinations were unconstitutional — his early writings were pure polemic. Washington Post, "‘Like throwing oil on a fire’: There’s nothing new about virulent anti-vaxxers.," 30 Mar. 2021 Yet there follows no Sorkin-style polemic; rather, the show’s sympathies emerge through a sheer richness of detail. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "Alena Smith’s Subversive “Dickinson”," 25 Feb. 2021 Applying the visual cues of experimental and documentary filmmaking, this explosive work offers a speculative, feminist polemic set in a potential future that mirrors both the present in which it was made and ours. Yasmina Price, Vulture, "The Still-Burning Fire of Born in Flames," 3 Feb. 2021 As a fresh-faced twenty-one-year-old from the West Coast studying composition at the Paris Conservatoire, I was thrown into a cauldron of musical polemic. William Bolcom, The New York Review of Books, "Remembering Boulez," 5 Nov. 2020 This is a subject that could easily be tainted by bias and polemic, but Ms. Searcy remains dispassionate, impartial and ebullient. Joel Lobenthal, WSJ, "‘Ballet in the Cold War’ Review: Diplomacy in Dance," 2 Oct. 2020 Michel Foucault on punishment and Frantz Fanon on colonialism are the thinkers whose work underwrote systemic, but the value of the word for accusation and polemic came from a simpler cause. David Bromwich, Harper's Magazine, "Is America Ungovernable?," 27 Oct. 2020 But this was not a polemic or a couple of hours filled by dry lessons. Rick Kogan, chicagotribune.com, "Column: ‘Get Out Alive’ lives on, with musical artist Nikki Lynette’s stage triumph coming soon to small screens," 23 Nov. 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

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Polemic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polemic. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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