de·​bate | \ di-ˈbāt How to pronounce debate (audio) , dē- \

Essential Meaning of debate

: a discussion between people in which they express different opinions about something The candidates participated in several debates before the election was held. Our polite chat about politics slowly turned into a heated debate. [=argument] See More ExamplesAt the center/core/heart of the debate [=controversy] is the question of responsibility. The meaning of the text has been the subject of considerable/intense/lively debate among scholars for many years. What topics will be under debate? [=debated]Hide

Full Definition of debate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a contention by words or arguments Our polite chat about politics became a heated debate. The case sparked a raging public debate on property rights. : such as
a : a regulated discussion of a proposition (see proposition entry 1 sense 1b) between two matched sides the last presidential debate before the election the debate's moderator
b law and government : the formal discussion of a motion (see motion entry 1 sense 3a) before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure


debated; debating

Definition of debate (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to argue about the subject was hotly debated
b : to engage (an opponent) in debate a governor debating her challenger
2 : to turn over in one's mind : to think about (something, such as different options) in order to decide still debating what to do

intransitive verb

1 : to participate in a debate the six primary candidates who debated last night
2a : to contend in words
b : to discuss a question by considering opposed arguments
3 obsolete : fight, contend

Other Words from debate


debatement \ di-​ˈbāt-​mənt How to pronounce debate (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
debater noun

Choose the Right Synonym for debate


discuss, argue, debate mean to discourse about in order to reach conclusions or to convince. discuss implies a sifting of possibilities especially by presenting considerations pro and con. discussed the need for a new highway argue implies the offering of reasons or evidence in support of convictions already held. argued that the project would be too costly debate suggests formal or public argument between opposing parties debated the merits of the amendment ; it may also apply to deliberation with oneself. I'm debating whether I should go

Examples of debate in a Sentence

Noun The candidates participated in several debates before the election was held. The meaning of the text has been the subject of considerable debate among scholars for many years. Verb Scholars have been debating the meaning of the text for years. Whether or not the tax cuts benefit the lower classes is still hotly debated among economists. The energy bill is currently being debated in Congress. The President debated his challenger in front of a live audience on Tuesday. The students debated for an hour.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In the waning months of the Administration, Christie was invited to the White House to attend the Rose Garden introduction of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court nominee and to help prepare Trump for a debate with Biden. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 21 Nov. 2021 These facts are not up for debate: Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and wounded another in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020, at a protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer. Jenny Singer, Glamour, 19 Nov. 2021 But Whittingham would not say if any of those three guys are out for the season, so much of this will remain up for debate until warmups begin on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 Nov. 2021 The first coffee houses opened up, providing public spaces for debate. Lisa Morrow, CNN, 15 Nov. 2021 Yet even as the start of the holiday remains up for debate, there's more than just personal traditions and preferences on the line. Naomi Ludlow, USA TODAY, 13 Nov. 2021 When, however, is still up for debate, as the Act gives the Secretary of Transportation the power to determine a date to mandate this technology. Greg Fink, Car and Driver, 13 Nov. 2021 For his part, Mr. Gosar suggested that critics were overly thin-skinned, insisting that the video was an allegory for a debate over immigration policy. New York Times, 12 Nov. 2021 Both measures move to the full Senate for more debate. Jeff Amy, ajc, 11 Nov. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Many academics debate whether Trota was a woman, although there are records from 12th century Anglo-Norman writers that describe traveling to Salerno to see a famous female doctor, assumed to be Trota. Mina Seçkin,, 17 Nov. 2021 The two remaining candidates for mayor of Atlanta, Andre Dickens and Felicia Moore, will debate Tuesday night in a forum live-streamed on Ajc Staff, ajc, 16 Nov. 2021 Experts debate the staying power of a tenuous economic recovery while the global supply chain has been stretched past the breaking point. New York Times, 9 Nov. 2021 For almost the entire primary campaign, Brown did not acknowledge in any serious way that Walton was running, refusing to debate her and, in caustic commentary after his defeat, declining to say her name. Keeanga-yamahtta Taylor, The New Yorker, 29 Oct. 2021 County officials urge ending capital punishment as state legislators prepare to debate it once again. Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Oct. 2021 Israelis and Palestinians debate the exact figures, but experts generally agree that the populations are approaching parity. Joseph Krauss,, 10 Nov. 2021 Some writers and researchers debate the benefits of using identity-first or person-first language. Laken Brooks, Forbes, 8 Nov. 2021 Some debate whether add-ins such as nuts or oatmeal belong. Kate Krader, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Nov. 2021

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


13th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 3

History and Etymology for debate

Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French debatre, from de- + batre to beat, from Latin battuere

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Time Traveler for debate

Time Traveler

The first known use of debate was in the 13th century

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Last Updated

25 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Debate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for debate


de·​bate | \ di-ˈbāt How to pronounce debate (audio) \

Kids Definition of debate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a discussion or argument carried on between two teams or sides
2 : a discussion of issues We had a debate over where to go on vacation.


debated; debating

Kids Definition of debate (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to discuss a question by giving arguments on both sides : take part in a debate
2 : to consider reasons for and against : give serious and careful thought to Mrs. Welsch seemed to be debating whether to say what she finally did.— Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

Other Words from debate

debater noun

More from Merriam-Webster on debate

Nglish: Translation of debate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of debate for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about debate


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