Meaning of polemic


A polemic is something that stirs up controversy by having a negative opinion, usually aimed at a particular group. A piece of writing can be a polemic, as long as it gets someone’s goat.

Polemic comes from the Greek polemikos meaning “warlike, belligerent.” It’s like challenging someone to a duel of ideas. These days a polemic is usually a piece of writing, such as if the Grinch published a powerful polemic against Christmas. It’s like a debate, and philosophers from Nietzsche to Voltaire are known for theirs. The British philosopher John Stuart Mill had this to say about it: “The worst offense that can be committed by a polemic is to stigmatize those who hold a contrary opinion as bad and immoral men.”

Definitions of polemic
  1. noun

    a controversy (especially over a belief or dogma)

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    type of:

    arguing, argument, contention, contestation, controversy, disceptation, disputation, tilt

    a contentious speech act; a dispute where there is strong disagreement

  2. noun

    a writer who argues in opposition to others (especially in theology)


    polemicist, polemist

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    type of:

    author, writer

    writes (books or stories or articles or the like) professionally (for pay)

  3. adjective

    of or involving dispute or controversy




    marked by or capable of arousing controversy

Word Family

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