Say someone regularly plays devil's advocate, arguing against whatever belief is currently espoused, even if he believes in it. In particular the individual believes in doing this with his own beliefs as well, and regularly mentally argues against a belief he holds to ensure they are reasonable and not skewed by bias.

Is there a word to describe a person who does this, or the belief in the importance of doing this with one's own beliefs?

Is there a word to refer to the act of arguing against your personal beliefs, particularly in situations where the argument is done internally, purely to verify the validity of the belief, rather then externally as part of a debate or discussion with others?


to clarify I'm trying to avoid negative connotations, looking for either value neutral or positive word. The focus should be on questioning ideas as a path towards checking biases, flawed logic, or simply finding missed arguments against that may change one's judgement; with the ultimate goal of ensuring a more informed final decision. Or in short, a way to avoid personal dogma clouding reason.

  • 3
    Wouldn't such people be called skeptical?
    – BiscuitBoy
    Dec 10, 2015 at 16:51
  • 3
    A "contrarian" mostly meets the definition. Dec 10, 2015 at 16:58
  • 5
    Argumentative might fit.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 10, 2015 at 17:09
  • Updated the question to state that I was looking for a word with a value neutral or positive tendency, sorry should have thought of that sooner :)
    – dsollen
    Dec 10, 2015 at 18:11
  • 1
    My first thought was “analytical”, possibly followed by “logical”.  These may describe a devil's advocate, but they are not synonymous with devil's advocate, and don't carry the same connotations.  (P.S. “Impartial” isn't what you're looking for, is it?) Jul 19, 2017 at 21:21

4 Answers 4


There are two words that are synonyms of devil's advocate, however neither is commonly used and one actually has a negative connotation.

The first is polemicist. This one carries an implication of (viciously) attacking another's point of view, so this is not what you want.

The second is apologist. This term is slightly more neutral, referring to someone who defends a position that is being attacked by others. It might work, it might not.

In my opinion, the best term to use to describe this person is the original term: devil's advocate.

  • I agree, the original phrase of "devil's advocate" carries the exact meanings and associations desired by the OP. Dec 10, 2015 at 18:54
  • Neither is quite what I like, but as others keep pointing out apparntly I'm not the only one who can't find the right phrase. I'm accepting this because it did it's best to address what I was looking for despite the difficulty, and because it taught me a new word I didn't know before that I likely will use at some point :)
    – dsollen
    Dec 15, 2015 at 16:42
  • Here's a word: dissenter Jan 6, 2023 at 3:37

How about "gadfly"? From Wikipedia:

A gadfly is a person who interferes with the status quo of a society or community by posing novel, potently upsetting questions, usually directed at authorities. The term is originally associated with the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, in his defense when on trial for his life.

  • not really the same thing, but I admit there are times it could work well, and it's just plan fun word to use, so I'll probably use it at some point :) I already knew it, but you make me realize I really should try to incorporate it into my spoken vocabulary more ;)
    – dsollen
    Jul 20, 2017 at 11:43
  • thinking it ove rmore I'm close to selecting this as the correct answer, as it's the term I'm most likely to use in my actual daily life when trying to describe something close to the orriginal idea. While I feel it's less exact then some terms it's also better known, it's the one term I could see myself using and expecting other's to understand (plus, it fits into my personal slightly self-depricating humor about myself to call myself a gadfly). But I already selected an answer and should stick with the most accurate, the fact thta the word fits my personality seems unfair bias for choosing
    – dsollen
    Jul 20, 2017 at 11:54

That it is difficult to find neutral let alone positive terms speaks volumes about our language. Devoted self-questioner, positive skeptic, skillful doubter, rational Buddhist.

  • Question is a single-word-request. Recommended action is to edit answer to reflect this. Jan 8, 2023 at 0:27

Id like to propose a new word to describe this idea as apologist or polemicist don't quite fit the bill. Dadvist = Someone who often plays devil's advocate, but in a neutral non religious connotation.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Jan 6, 2023 at 2:22
  • 2
    Hi Caleb. Neologisms are off topic; we're looking for established terms. I encourage you to see the help center and the site tour.
    – livresque
    Jan 6, 2023 at 2:25
  • "Devocate". There might be a reason no portmanteau exists yet. Jan 8, 2023 at 0:28
  • No explicit request to avoid inventing new words but "is there a" suggests it is looking for an already-existing word that has wide acceptance. Jan 8, 2023 at 0:31

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