English Idiom – To play devil’s advocate.

Meaning – To express an opposing or unpopular point of view for the sake of argument.  To argue against a certain position or point of view, not because you actually believes it, but rather to challenge and test the strength of that position. It is a way of stimulating discussion and critical thinking by presenting alternative viewpoints and anticipating potential objections.

When someone plays devil’s advocate, they take on the role of the opposing viewpoint in a debate or discussion, arguing against the position they actually believe in. This can help to identify potential weaknesses in the argument, and to test the strength of the opposing viewpoint. By doing so, they encourage deeper analysis and critical thinking, which can lead to a more well-rounded and informed conclusion.

According to Phrase Finder this phrase was brought into English in the 18th century from the medieval Latin expression ‘advocatus diaboli‘. When a person was nominated to become a Saint the ‘advocatus diaboli’ or ‘Devil’s Advocate’ was expected to draw up a list of arguments against the nominee becoming canonised.

More Devilish Idioms:

  • A devil-may-care attitude – A reckless, carefree approach to life or a situation.
  • Better the devil you know – It is better to deal with a known problem than to risk dealing with something worse that is unknown.
  • Between the devil and the deep blue sea – Being in a difficult or impossible situation, where both options are equally bad.
  • Give the devil his due – To acknowledge the strengths or positive qualities of someone, even if they are not generally liked or respected.
  • Speak of the devil – This phrase is used when someone appears just as they are being talked about.
  • The devil is in the details – The idea that small, often overlooked details can cause major problems or complications.


When could you use this idiom?

  • If you want to better understand both sides of an argument.
  • So you can further understand the opinions of someone you are debating.
  • To improve your debating skills.
  • When you really want to have an argument with someone!


  • “I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment so you will get an idea of what the opposition will say…”

In The News:

Playing Devil’s Advocate: Why Founders Should Ignore The Blog …


  • Is there an idiom like this in your country?

What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.

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