Devil's Advocate (Origin)
What Is the Origin of the Saying "Devil's Advocate"?The term "devil's advocate" means a person who presents an opposing opinion to provoke debate or to test the strength of a proposition.
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- English Proverbs and Idioms Test
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Examples of Use:
- But, what will happen if the prosecution does have evidence? Sorry, I'm just playing Devil's advocate.
- Let's meet to examine this theory thoroughly. We'll use Jack as a Devil's advocate.
- I want to rehearse the press conference. Sue, please use your team as the Devil's advocate. I need challenging questions.
- Run this plan past all the managers, including some playing Devil's advocate. We must do what we can to identify any issues before they occur.
"Devil's advocate" originates from the Middle Ages. Nowadays, the term is commonly used in business and political settings, where it usually features in a phrase like "to play Devil's advocate." The task of someone playing Devil's advocate is to adopt a position that challenges the accepted norm, even if they personally agree with the accepted norm. The purpose of this is to initiate debate and to test theories and assumptions.
In less formal settings, you will often hear people saying something like "I'm just playing Devil's advocate" as a caveat before asking a question that might otherwise annoy. For example:
- Jackie: I was surprised that none of the NASA delegation could remember Tony.
- Anna: I'm just playing Devil's advocate here, but what if he wasn't an astronaut before you met him?