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 he or she 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, 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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