Definition of polemic in US English:



  • 1A strong verbal or written attack on someone or something.

    ‘his polemic against the cultural relativism of the Sixties’
    ‘a writer of feminist polemic’
    • ‘Its underlying message warns against falsehood and its consequences, although it does not ostensibly function as a polemic against homophobia.’
    • ‘In particular, it is a polemic against dialectics.’
    • ‘Here's an update on some of the more attention-grabbing theatrical spoofs and polemics being presented in Seattle and beyond.’
    • ‘And yet, the song is not just a polemic against those who are in power.’
    • ‘But while the original essays were powerful provocations and polemics, the book itself is a disappointing and limited guide to current debates over the future of the university.’
    • ‘Most pertinent to public policy is his polemic against industrial, or containment, farming.’
    • ‘The extended polemic against rock music turned out to be particularly rich.’
    • ‘His essay is in part a polemic against the mimetic theory of art, or against any theory which takes the image to be the basic constituent of the work.’
    • ‘It is, in the first place, a polemic against the deifying of the social order, which can happen with or without Hegelian philosophy.’
    • ‘Accompanying her powerful polemic against ‘victim art’ was the assertion that she did not plan to see the work.’
    • ‘But it is a better book for not being a polemic against the excesses of the British in India.’
    • ‘Many press accounts have misread this book as an indictment of incentive zoning or as a polemic against privatization.’
    • ‘Equally, one might regard it as a polemic against the reflexive association of aesthetics with false consciousness.’
    • ‘I think he wrote it in haste, he wrote it in anger, he wrote a brilliant polemic.’
    • ‘Sometimes I write over-the-top polemics or fantasies just for a giggle.’
    • ‘If that's a polemic then I guess my films are polemics.’
    • ‘All her polemics and essays are written with a disciplined, jargon-free clarity.’
    • ‘Much of contemporary architectural thinking is grounded in a polemic against modernism and even classicism.’
    • ‘Most of what Aristotle says about mathematics is a polemic against Plato's views, and there is not much consensus among scholars on the scattered positive remarks he makes.’
    • ‘The latter may be because I'd always prefer to read a punchy polemic against ideas I hold than a dull defence or clunky statement of them.’
    diatribe, invective, denunciation, denouncement, rant, tirade, broadside, attack, harangue, verbal onslaught
    argumentation, argument, debate, contention, dispute, disputation, discussion, controversy, altercation, faction, wrangling
    critical, hostile, bitter, polemical, virulent, vitriolic, venomous, waspish, corrosive, biting, caustic, trenchant, cutting, acerbic, sardonic, sarcastic, scathing, acid, sharp, keen, tart, pungent, stinging, astringent, incisive, devastating, piercing
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1usually polemics The art or practice of engaging in controversial debate or dispute.
      ‘the history of science has become embroiled in religious polemics’
      • ‘His work thus has the tendency to reproduce the elisions of the religious and political polemics of the sixteenth century while seeking to explain them.’
      • ‘In political polemics, the mob, particularly the revolutionary mob, has often been characterised as anarchic, violent, out of control.’
      • ‘Despite these polemics coming into play, the pair of us have managed to get along famously and have exchanged some very long-winded email arguments covering not just politics, but life in general.’
      • ‘Some defenders of religion enter into polemics with scientists and question their theories, for instance, by opposing the theory of evolution.’
      • ‘Literature on the Palestinian diaspora has usually been wrought with fierce and involuted tensions which emerge from the politics and polemics of exile.’
      • ‘It engages historians, philosophers, scientists and the educated lay public alike in a discussion that self-consciously resists the temptation of polemics.’
      • ‘For example, we still need to work to reclaim historically complex, difficult, and inevitably controversial philosophical and political questions from the polemics of the culture wars.’
      • ‘Newspapers found it cheaper and better for their circulation to indulge in polemics rather than in detailed reporting, and this sensationalized politics still further.’
      • ‘However, the reports of both bodies were swamped by partisan polemics in the ongoing battle between federal Labor Governments and their political opponents.’
      • ‘And we'll discuss polemics and the recapturing of civility at the center of the country soon.’
      • ‘Denominational conflict and polemics continued throughout the later nineteenth century and into the twentieth.’
      • ‘As the rest of the world marched towards scientific orientation and professionalism, India wallowed in a whirlpool of politics, polemics and puerile prejudices.’
      • ‘Controversy raged over every aspect of this policy, and polemics flew over such questions as whether French soldiers could honourably be punished for military offences in the German way by beating with the flat of a sword.’
      • ‘‘Political polemics are not protected in Illinois,’ Finkin said.’
      • ‘In a mindfully maintained dialogical encounter, argumentation and polemics can become penetrating tools to playfully inquire into the possibilities and limitations of all views.’
      • ‘Arguments to motivation or nature are a staple of polemics, not news.’
      • ‘I would think that there are products out there that wouldn't mind being affiliated with foul-mouthed polemics, but political candidates are hardly the likeliest ones, I'm afraid.’
      • ‘I believe that the only way that we can survive in a multi-religious society is by promoting this sort of healthy discussion, free from polemics.’
      • ‘This led to renewed polemics, although in practice the great majority of students continued to be taught the Catholic religion in the schools.’
      • ‘They're not interested in discussion, but polemics.’
      debate, discussion, dispute, argument, arguing, argumentation, altercation, wrangling, sparring, dissension, disagreement, disharmony, conflict, contention, controversy
      View synonyms


  • another term for polemical
    • ‘Other men, perhaps less certain of their status, or with more avowedly polemic things to express, were less retiring.’
    • ‘It is a polemic piece of architecture that has much to offer the typology of house.’
    • ‘I really do think it's perfectly OK to expose one's passions and prejudices in unashamedly polemic writing on a blog.’
    • ‘He is a polemic historian who means to show us, as he did in his acclaimed Understanding Toscanini, just what went wrong in classical music.’
    • ‘Despite all this, the most amusing thing about your article hasn't yet been mentioned here in my little polemic tirade.’
    • ‘Much of this, expressed in less polemic language, is accepted by many of the historians that Jenkins seeks to criticize.’
    • ‘Protestant reviewers, on the other hand, were put off by Maynard's polemic tone.’
    • ‘Hersh is certainly not writing history, which leads me to conclude that even the greatest polemic journalism can become confusing when expanded into book form.’
    • ‘This extensive, polemic point demonstrates the error of interpreting the situation simply in terms of ideology.’
    • ‘Every single scholar who has written on India finds place in this book, even as the two authors carve out a space between rival and polemic writings.’
    • ‘But as for the polemic aspect, one of the main points critics made was that it lacked balance, that it was too one-sided.’
    • ‘Moreover, such histories as do survive were written not as objective records but from particular perspectives and with polemic aims.’
    • ‘Pickens, in fact, offers up nothing less than a review essay on Eloge with polemic blasts of his own, of which several are worth recording.’
    • ‘By way of an introduction thought I'd post a polemic piece that I've been knocking about for a while.’
    • ‘I'll go back and read it again, but if I'm right, and you only gave a harsh polemic opinion, why react so vehemently to the opposing polemic viewpoint?’
    • ‘Tradition and continuity are imbued with polemic powers.’
    • ‘The other part is that these policies our present or future governments develop for mainly polemic purposes sometimes actually get implemented!’
    • ‘This polemic strategy, aided by the sense of physical insecurity, keeps large segments of the Israeli population hostage to fear.’


Mid 17th century: via medieval Latin from Greek polemikos, from polemos ‘war’.