devil's advocate

noun
1.
a person who advocates an opposing or unpopular cause for the sake of argument or to expose it to a thorough examination.
2.
Also called promoter of the faith. Roman Catholic Church. an official appointed to present arguments against a proposed beatification or canonization of a beatus.

Origin:
1750–60; translation of Neo-Latin advocātus diabolī

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World English Dictionary
devil's advocate
 
n
1.  a person who advocates an opposing or unpopular view, often for the sake of argument
2.  RC Church Technical name: promotor fidei the official appointed to put the case against the beatification or canonization of a candidate
 
[translation of New Latin advocātus diabolī]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

devil's advocate
1760, translating L. advocatus diaboli, one whose job it is to urge against the canonization of a candidate for sainthood.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

devil's advocate

One who argues against a cause or position either for the sake of argument or to help determine its validity. For example, My role in the campaign is to play devil's advocate to each new policy before it's introduced to the public. This term comes from the Roman Catholic Church, where advocatus diaboli (Latin for "devil's advocate") signifies an official who is appointed to present arguments against a proposed canonization or beatification. It was transferred to wider use in the mid-1700s.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

devil's advocate

in the Roman Catholic church, the promoter of the faith, who critically examines the life of and miracles attributed to an individual proposed for beatification or canonization. He is popularly called the devil's advocate because his presentation of facts includes everything unfavourable to the candidate. Pope Leo X, in the early 15th century, seems to have introduced the term, but Sixtus V formally established the office in 1587. The office was abolished when Pope John Paul II revised the canonization procedures in 1979.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
As much as it pains me to play devil's advocate in this case, the high
  schoolers don't have any rational people defending them.
The writer of this piece must be playing devil's advocate.
It is fun to lob an idea out there devil's advocate style and let the good
  folks here shred it.
In the course of the discussion, act as devil's advocate.
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