[puh-lem-iks, poh-]

noun (used with a singular verb)

the art or practice of disputation or controversy: a master of polemics.
the branch of theology dealing with the history or conduct of ecclesiastical disputation and controversy.

Compare irenics.

Origin of polemics

First recorded in 1630–40; see origin at polemic, -ics


[puh-lem-ik, poh-]


a controversial argument, as one against some opinion, doctrine, etc.
a person who argues in opposition to another; controversialist.


Also po·lem·i·cal. 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 formspo·lem·i·cal·ly, adverbnon·po·lem·ic, noun, adjectivenon·po·lem·i·cal, adjectivenon·po·lem·i·cal·ly, adverbo·ver·po·lem·i·cal, adjectiveo·ver·po·lem·i·cal·ly, adverbun·po·lem·ic, adjectiveun·po·lem·i·cal, adjectiveun·po·lem·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for polemics

Contemporary Examples of polemics

  • My hope is that Rand Paul now recognizes that even the most conservative Americans want to hear about policy, not polemics.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Rand Paul's Muslim-Bashing Speech

    Dean Obeidallah

    October 14, 2013

  • The problem is that the experience appears to have left him with an insatiable appetite for polemics.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Not a Useful Contribution

    Daniel Gavron

    October 1, 2012

  • As the fate of the Soviet Union dramatically showed, modern superpowers cannot be sustained by polemics and police forever.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why China Eclipsed Russia

    Peter Osnos

    July 30, 2009

Historical Examples of polemics

British Dictionary definitions for polemics



(functioning as singular) the art or practice of dispute or argument, as in attacking or defending a doctrine or belief


adjective Also: po'lemical

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 Formspolemically, adverbpolemicist (pəˈlɛmɪsɪst) or polemist (ˈpɒlɪmɪst), noun

Word Origin for polemic

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

Word Origin and History for polemics



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