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From Middle English gainsayen, ȝeinseggen (to say against, say in opposition to), equivalent to gain- +‎ say. Compare Old Danish gensige (to speak against; gainsay), Swedish gensaga (a speaking against; protest).



gainsay (third-person singular simple present gainsays, present participle gainsaying, simple past and past participle gainsaid)

  1. To contradict; to withsay; to deny, refute; to controvert; to dispute; to forbid.
    • 1840, Abel Upshur, A Brief Enquiry into the Nature and Character of our Federal Government, Campbell, page 84:
      The supreme court, therefore, may assume jurisdiction over subjects and between parties, not allowed by the constitution, and there is no power in the federal government to gainsay it.
    • 1902, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles:
      Know then that in the time of the Great Rebellion (the history of which by the learned Lord Clarendon I most earnestly commend to your attention) this Manor of Baskerville was held by Hugo of that name, nor can it be gainsaid that he was a most wild, profane, and godless man.
    • 2012 July 7, “Griffith acted, and lived, by Golden Rule”, in The Post and Courier[1], Charleston: Evening Post Publishing, page 5, Features:
      And there was something childlike about Griffith, too, even in his Matlock days, as a deceptively sharp 'simple country lawyer,' a big-kid boyishness that did not mask his intelligence or gainsay his authority.

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