con·​tro·​ver·​sial | \ ˌkän-trə-ˈvər-shəl How to pronounce controversial (audio) , -ˈvər-sē-əl \

Definition of controversial

1 : of, relating to, or arousing controversy a controversial policy a controversial film
2 : given to controversy : disputatious a controversial temperament The controversial biologist caused a ferment among his colleagues.

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Other Words from controversial

controversialism \ ˌkän-​trə-​ˈvər-​shə-​ˌli-​zəm How to pronounce controversial (audio) , -​sē-​ə-​ˌli-​ \ noun
controversialist \ ˌkän-​trə-​ˈvər-​shə-​list How to pronounce controversial (audio) , -​sē-​ə-​list \ noun
controversially adverb

Examples of controversial in a Sentence

Abortion is a highly controversial subject. a decision that remains controversial He is a controversial author.
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Recent Examples on the Web The great Jerome Holtzman, author of the controversial save rule, tipped me off on this one., 11 Sep. 2021 Vaccine mandates have long proved particularly controversial for the agency, former officials said. Washington Post, 10 Sep. 2021 Further complicating the matter of Morpheus is the video game The Matrix Online (2005), which depicted the death of Morpheus in a move that proved controversial among fans. Richard Newby, Vulture, 9 Sep. 2021 The company’s business model of generating revenue via Payment for Order Flow has also proved somewhat controversial. Trefis Team, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 The proposal proved controversial for multiple reasons. Matt Burgess, Wired, 8 Sep. 2021 And the legislation would save money from delaying the implementation of a controversial prescription drug rebate rule, among other items. Melanie Zanona, CNN, 11 Aug. 2021 Just weeks before the Games began, the IOC altered its controversial Rule 50, which bars political expression. Noah Robertson, The Christian Science Monitor, 4 Aug. 2021 The controversial rule was first pitched last year by Congressman Joe Buscaino, President Pro Tempore of the City Council. Jada Jackson, House Beautiful, 2 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'controversial.' 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 controversial

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for controversial

see controversy

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Time Traveler for controversial

Time Traveler

The first known use of controversial was in 1583

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Statistics for controversial

Last Updated

21 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Controversial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for controversial



English Language Learners Definition of controversial

: relating to or causing much discussion, disagreement, or argument : likely to produce controversy


con·​tro·​ver·​sial | \ ˌkän-trə-ˈvər-shəl How to pronounce controversial (audio) \

Kids Definition of controversial

: relating to or causing disagreement or argument a controversial law

More from Merriam-Webster on controversial

Nglish: Translation of controversial for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of controversial for Arabic Speakers


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