devil's advocate

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Calque of Latin advocātus diabolī (the devil’s advocate), a popular title given to the officer dealing with the canonization process in the 16th c.


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devil's advocate (plural devil's advocates)

  1. (idiomatic) One who debates from a viewpoint which one may not actually hold, usually to determine its validity or simply for the sake of argument.
    I don't really believe all that – I was just playing devil's advocate.
    • 1985, Albert Brooks, Lost in America (motion picture), spoken by David Howard (Albert Brooks):
      Now, play devil's advocate. Can't you live 20 years on $145,000 if you're living out of a motor home and just eating and painting and writing books? I mean, this is what we talked about when we were 19. Remember, we kept saying, "Let's find ourselves," but we didn't have a dollar! So, we watched television instead.
  2. (historical, Roman Catholicism) A canon lawyer appointed by the Church to argue against the canonization of the proposed candidate.


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devil's advocate (third-person singular simple present devil's advocates, present participle devil's advocating, simple past and past participle devil's advocated)

  1. (intransitive, informal) To play devil's advocate.
    • 2006 September 27, bwross, “Crawl-SS: Weapon & armor changes”, in[1] (Usenet):
      Disclaimer: people shouldn't take things I say too personally, I'm often a bit blunt and like to devil's advocate and debate things (another part of this is that I've typically not bothered to post on things that are correct, but to correct things when they're wrong... if you take everything I don't respond to as an affirmation, I'm extremely nice:)
    • 2008 May 20, Carl, “Woman: 'I can't go against what it says in the Bible'”, in alt.atheism[2] (Usenet):
      I don't want to get bogged down devil's-advocating for a position I don't personally hold (I think a government worker should not be allowed to bring religious beliefs into the job, just to be clear), but her position is a little different than the absolute you're making it into.

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