Definition of debate in English:

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Pronunciation: /dəˈbāt/


1A formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.
Example sentences
  • Watt committed himself to holding more public debates and discussions separate from council meetings.
  • In those circumstances the House does not need to hold an urgent debate on the matter today.
  • Not one public meeting or debate has been organised by the council.
discussion, discourse, parley, dialogue;
argument, counterargument, dispute, wrangle, war of words;
argumentation, disputation, dissension, disagreement, contention, conflict;
negotiations, talks
informal confab, powwow
1.1An argument about a particular subject, especially one in which many people are involved: the national debate on abortion there has been much debate about prices
More example sentences
  • The debate on this subject will go on as long as the human race exists, so all I can do is raise a few points on the subject.
  • This aspect of the debate has been the subject of much political and academic disagreement.
  • I wouldn't normally involve myself in debates or arguments about who should be American president.


[with object]
1Argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner: the board debated his proposal the date when people first entered America is hotly debated
More example sentences
  • The issue of the bridge came up again, for the second month in a row, and again the topic was hotly debated.
  • But when it came to the price of salt, the commissioners spent many hours debating the subject.
  • Further rioting followed and the subject was debated in the Reichstag.
discuss, talk over/through, talk about, thrash out, hash out, argue, dispute
informal kick around, bat around
1.1 [with clause] Consider a possible course of action in one’s mind before reaching a decision: he debated whether he should leave the matter alone or speak to her
More example sentences
  • I can see she is debating whether or not to tell me the truth.
  • Sandra paused for a moment and debated in her mind as to whether she should go or not.
  • Christine looked at Jacquin, she was debating in her mind if she should talk to him or not.
consider, think over/about, chew over, mull over, ponder, revolve, deliberate, contemplate, muse, meditate
formal cogitate



be open to debate

Be unproven; require further discussion.
Example sentences
  • Furthermore, the true value of those benefits is open to debate.
  • Just how much Yorkshire will benefit from his return is open to debate as the player is contracted to England.
  • How well specific juries expressed the people's will was open to debate.

under debate

Being discussed or disputed.
Example sentences
  • One of the key policy discussions currently under debate is research on embryonic stem-cells.
  • Fisher's theory is just one of several hypotheses under debate today.
  • There's a controversial proposal under debate in New York City now that would give non-citizens a protected privilege of American citizenship, the right to vote.


Middle English: via Old French from Latin dis- (expressing reversal) + battere 'to fight'.

  • Debate is a word that has undergone a considerable shift in meaning. At its root is Latin battere ‘to fight’, and this was the original English meaning of debate. From that it acquired the sense ‘quarrel’ and ‘dispute’, which rapidly led to the more civilized idea of something deliberated and discussed. The phrase debatable land (Middle English) for borderland claimed by two nations, particularly the area fought over by England and Scotland, keeps the original sense.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: de·bate

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