I recently read somewhere a single word that described a person who enjoyed an argument - in the sense of a lively debate. It may have been a word implying a positive or neutral context but I don't think it was negative or derogatory.

A complex word (uncommon in colloquial use), medium length (7-8 letters), possibly ending in -ic. One or more of these points may be a false memory.

Any ideas?


7 Answers 7


Polemic (polemicist) or Controversialist.

polemic (noun): A person who argues or writes in opposition to another, or who takes up a controversial position; a controversialist. Cf. polemicist n. [OED]

polemicist (noun): An author of polemics; a controversialist. [OED]

controversialist (noun): a person who likes to disagree with other people and say things that make people angry or think about a subject [Cambridge]

You can consider argumentative or contentious as an adjective.

  • Bravo! "Polemic" was the word I was looking for - though having looked at the definition I'm less sure of the implied context. Would you say it's context is positive, negative or neutral?
    – kavmeister
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 18:57
  • 1
    @kaben: It would be negative because they harshly criticize people.
    – ermanen
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 2:28

a person who disputes; who is good at or enjoys controversy

2. a person who engages in disputation
the art or practice or debate or argument

Gainsay comes from an Old English word that means "contradict" or "say against," If you know someone who constantly corrects others, tells them that they're wrong, and says, "That's not true," more than anyone else, you have first-hand experience with the art of the gainsay.

The Free Dictionary. Vocabulary.com

  • master debater. Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 18:19

"Contrarian" is a good term for someone who always has to bring up a contrary point. I like it because it is neutral, even though the behavior itself can be quite annoying. The noun form gives it dignity, as if there's an important role a contrarian plays in a group.


How about antagonistic? Or maybe, pugnacious.

  • Those are adjectives not nouns.
    – Jimi Oke
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 15:18
  • @JimiOke, I don't see the question asking for nouns specifically...?
    – Hellion
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 16:02

contentious, quarrelsome, cantankerous, O.E. contekors, grizzle guts, obstructive, argol-bargolous, quarrelsome; argy-bargy (—1887) [is mostly Scottish], scolding; ill- natured, disputatious, boiler (sl)


Some good answers here but just wanted to add devil's advocate - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_advocate


The best noun I've ever heard, was in a star trek episode, where Kirk refers to Harry as an 'irritant'.


something that is unpleasant or annoying : something that irritates you

"dust and other lung irritants"
"The delay was a minor irritant."

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