What does the idiom "Play devil\'s advocate" mean?

Although the meanings of the words in them do not make any sense when examined one by one, the word groups that are shaped according to the cultural roots of the language and that make sense as a whole are called idioms. Play devil\'s advocate meaning, in what situations is it used?

Meaning of "Play devil\'s advocate"


The phrase ‘play devil’s advocate’ is used to describe someone who expresses a contrary opinion on a particular issue, in order to provoke debate and discussion. This person is not necessarily taking sides against the prevailing opinion, they are just playing the part of the devil’s advocate in order to come to a better understanding of the issue. This phrase is often used when discussing the merits of a particular argument or position, as playing devil’s advocate can lead to a more detailed or thorough understanding of an issue.


The phrase ‘play devil’s advocate’ has its roots in the Catholic Church. The role of Devil’s Advocate was first established in the 15th century and was designed to challenge the process of canonisation or beatification of a person. The Devil’s Advocate was responsible for presenting all the possible objections to a proposed canonisation in order for the decision-making process to be as thorough as possible.


The phrase ‘play devil’s advocate’ can be used in any discussion where someone is expressing an opinion that is contrary to the prevailing view. The phrase is often used when discussing the merits of an argument or idea, and it can be used to encourage further debate and discussion. For example, if someone is discussing the merits of a particular policy, someone else might ‘play devil’s advocate’ by expressing an opposing view in order to explore all the potential arguments.

Example Sentences

  • I'm not sure I agree with what you're saying, so I'm going to play devil's advocate for a moment and explore the other side of the argument.
  • I'm not against the proposal, but I think we need to play devil's advocate and think about all the potential problems before we make a decision.

The meanings of the words in the "Play devil\'s advocate" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.


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