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I need a word or phrase which can be used to describe someone or something challenging a general idea of belief. Here are some examples:

They challenge the ethos of their particular eras and in turn, inflict personal and political change.

In these sources, they investigate the intricacies of human interaction, and how the distribution of power can be altered through challenging the zeitgeists of the same country at two distinct points, one filled with racism and the latter with chaos.

I need terms to replace the word "challenge" in these examples. Any help will be strongly appreciated.

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    It might help to know why "challenge" isn't acceptable for your purposes. Commented May 4, 2021 at 9:30
  • Have you yet gone through the research processes that might get you to an answer? You start by looking up in a thesaurus words close to what you seek but not quite right. So try 'sceptic', or 'critical'; or 'disruptive' or 'disruptor' or 'reformer'; or 'rebel'. You then look up the word and take each word listed and look it up in a good dictionary, studying carefully the examples of the word or phrase in use. If you still cannot find what you are looking for, maybe you have to invent one - perhaps a hyphenated compound of two words.
    – Tuffy
    Commented May 4, 2021 at 9:44
  • Not so sure about "inflict...change." Maybe introduce, but inflict sounds painful. Commented May 4, 2021 at 13:59

2 Answers 2

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"To contend against" is a close synonym.

(SOED)4 v.i. Argue (with, against, etc.)

They contend against the ethos of their particular eras and in turn, inflict personal and political change.

Here can be perused plenty of examples; by doing so a truer feel of the term can be gained.

A telling sample The classical student has only to contend against other students who are and have been situated very much as he is situated himself.

This can be worded as follows.

  • The classical student has only to challenge other students who are and have been situated very much as he is situated himself.
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I looked through the thesaurus, and two words you may find useful are ‘contest’ and ‘denounce’.

Contest carries the meaning of arguing and questioning, similar to challenge:

to struggle or fight for, as in battle.

to argue against; dispute: to contest a controversial question; to contest a will.

to call in question: They contested his right to speak.

While Denounce has the feeling of ‘attacking’: to condemn or censure openly or publicly

Using these in your sample:

They contest the ethos of their particular eras and in turn, inflict personal and political change.

In these sources, they investigate the intricacies of human interaction, and how the distribution of power can be altered through denouncing the zeitgeists of the same country at two distinct points, one filled with racism and the latter with chaos.

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