I came across this wonderful word recently but can't recall it now.

Let's say, I'm in a debate and I'm talking about a particular topic. I make a remark and seeing the prospect of a strong rebuttal, quickly go on to add supporting explanation.

I'm looking for a word (which is either an adjective or adverb) to describe this.

He spoke _____ly. (adverb)
He is a _____ speaker. (adjective)

To better demonstrate this, take this example. One speaker says:

Lack of education is the root cause of terrorism.

At this point, he knows his opponent might argue that even educated youths are attracted to extremism these days. The speaker then goes on to say:

When I say ‘education’, it's not just about having a college degree, but also moral education—the wisdom to choose between what's right and what's wrong.

  • 2
    The speaker takes into account the possible objections, and undermines that line of attack before it can even be uttered. (Not an adjective, but I think this is what you are after)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 4, 2017 at 8:37
  • There are many possibilities. I assume the meaning you are looking for is to 'anticipate and defuse a potential counterargument'. The fancy term for this is procatalepsis or prolepsis. It is not particularly common but you could say as an adverb 'proleptically'. Look for synonyms of 'anticipate'.
    – Mitch
    Jul 4, 2017 at 15:04
  • 1
    I listened to the podcast again, from where I heard this particular word originally. I got that word and it is steelman or steelmanning. I think it is more of a technical expression. I will write about it in detail as an answer.
    – Codeformer
    Jul 4, 2017 at 23:14

2 Answers 2


He spoke preemptively. The Free Dictionary defines preemptive as:

taken as a measure against something possible, anticipated, or feared; preventive; deterrent: a preemptive strike against the enemy.

The example given by The Free Dictionary jibes exactly with the OP's example, if enemy is replaced by opponent.

  • +1, Thank you, This is definitely a correct word. I think the word that I referred to was specific to speaking. I believe I heard that from one of Tim Ferris podcast episodes , either with David Blane or on Cryptocurrency. I might go and listen to those episodes all over again :)
    – Codeformer
    Jul 4, 2017 at 3:35
  • @Vinod Now you have me wondering what the word could be.
    – ab2
    Jul 4, 2017 at 7:03
  • You were precise in your answer. However, I got that word from the podcast and written about it in an answer below.
    – Codeformer
    Jul 5, 2017 at 0:02

"preemptively", as given in the previous answer is definitely the most accurate word to use in the given context. However, I listened to the podcast again for the particular word and would like to share it here. It is more of a technical term and I did not find its meaning in any popular directory except Wiktionary

The term is steelman (also spelled steel man)

The definition is slightly different from what is given in the question.

From Wiktionary,


steelman (third-person singular simple present steelmans, present participle steelmanning, simple past and past participle steelmanned)

To refute a stronger version of an argument than what was actually given; to repair flaws in an argument before refuting it.

I will quote the portion verbatim from the podcast episode where I heard this originally, From minute 113.

…If you want to be maximally persuasive, you know Charles Darwin actually did this very very well what I am about to say, In The origin of species instead of strawmanning , I think Sam Harris used this expression, steelmanning, so in other words he would try to anticipate the objection that people would have and then he would not take sort of weak and flimsy version of their argument, he would build it up and make it compelling as possible before he would counter it.

Other Usages:

2012 July 7, Guy Srinivasan, “Wireheading Steelman”, in lw-seattle,

I don't agree with the argument, because of 4. If I were to steelman it, which I may try but after work or maybe during lunch, I would first try to make it impervious to this assault:

2015 February 11, Daniel Armak, “Re: volunteers for feb 24.”, in LessWrong Tel Aviv,

It is possible that while preparing for the talk I will manage to convince myself that the problem is in fact resolved or dissolved. In that case I will treat you to my best steelmanning of the problem, and its resolution.

2015 June 18, rndn, “Going Deeper into Neural Networks”, in Hacker News,

Perhaps the argument should be steelmanned in that we should generally avoid using algorithms which are so complex that they aren't glass boxes.

  • 1
    you deserve a lot of credit for 'listening to that podcast again' and providing a detailed answer to your own question. Just looking at your answer it is just the type of answer that is expected at ELU and routinely given by senior members. I appreciate and upvote! Jul 5, 2017 at 9:25

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