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[puh-lem-ik, poh-] /pəˈlɛm ɪk, poʊ-/
a controversial argument, as one against some opinion, doctrine, etc.
a person who argues in opposition to another; controversialist.
Also, polemical. of or relating to a polemic; controversial.
Origin of polemic
1630-40; < Greek polemikós of or for war, equivalent to pólem(os) war + -ikos -ic
Related forms
polemically, adverb
nonpolemic, noun, adjective
nonpolemical, adjective
nonpolemically, adverb
overpolemical, adjective
overpolemically, adverb
unpolemic, adjective
unpolemical, adjective
unpolemically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for polemical
  • To have an impact, a polemical argument must be precise and persuasive.
  • Unlike me, his blogging style is far more professorial and far less polemical.
  • The point of this short, polemical book is to explain why.
  • The accusations that fill its pages are the kind scholars regularly hurl at their polemical opponents.
  • They understood how to channel a polemical argument into a piece of poetry.
  • The best treat their subjects with nuance and subtlety, while it is the more polemical productions that fall flat.
  • Inside this ponderous book is a slim polemical volume struggling to get out.
  • Unbearably tiresome because the comparison is unbearably polemical.
  • Arguably, these are far more important than her polemical skills, writing or political commentary.
  • It reflects the author's intense intellectual curiosity and ambition, as well as a polemical streak.
British Dictionary definitions for polemical


of or involving dispute or controversy
an argument or controversy, esp over a doctrine, belief, etc
a person engaged in such an argument or controversy
Derived Forms
polemically, adverb
polemicist (pəˈlɛmɪsɪst), polemist (ˈpɒlɪmɪst) noun
Word Origin
C17: from Medieval Latin polemicus, from Greek polemikos relating to war, from polemos war
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for polemical



1630s, "controversial argument or discussion," from French polémique (16c./17c.), noun use of adjective meaning "disputatious, controversial" (see polemic (adj.)).


1640s, from French polémique (from Middle French polemique) "disputatious, controversial," or directly from Greek polemikos "of war, warlike, belligerent; skilled in war, fit for service; like an enemy, stirring up hostility," from polemos "war," of unknown origin. Related: Polemical (1630s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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