‘Agree To Disagree’: Definition, Meaning and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on August 8, 2023

Did someone use the phrase 'agree to disagree' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.

In brief, ‘agree to disagree’ means to decide to end an argument or conflict even though the parties involved didn’t reach a shared conclusion. Basically, it means that fighting parties acknowledge that there’s no point in continuing to argue and, instead, it’s better just to tolerate each other’s differing views.

What Does 'Agree to Disagree' Mean?

The phrase ‘agree to disagree’ means to resolve a debate or conflict by having everyone decide to tolerate (but not accept) the views of the other parties. This is usually used when everyone involved determines that nothing productive will come from continuing to argue.

For a simple example, let’s say that you and your friend are having a disagreement about which outfit you should wear to a party. You are set on wearing a particular blue shirt, while they want you to wear the red shirt they think looks great on you.

To avoid needlessly bickering over something that is relatively insignificant, your friend might say, “ok, you wear what you want. Let’s just agree to disagree and move on.”

Where Does 'Agree to Disagree' Come From?

We first find the phrase ‘agree to disagree’ being used with its modern meaning in a 1770 memorial sermon for George Whitefield. Written by John Wesley, he describes the fact that they disagreed on a number of doctrinal issues:

There are many doctrines of a less essential nature ... In these we may think and let think; we may 'agree to disagree.' But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials…”

Wesley later wrote a letter to his brother Charles, stating that the phrase came from Whitefield himself. Here’s what he said:

"If you agree with me, well: if not, we can, as Mr. Whitefield used to say, agree to disagree."

In fact, it turns out that Whitefield had been using this phrase in letters to others since at least 1750. Here’s an example:

“After all, those who will live in peace must agree to disagree in many things with their fellow-labourers, and not let little things part or disunite them.”

Older Appearances of the Phrase in Text

Even though it seems that Whitefield and Wesley were the ones that popularized the modern meaning of the phrase, the phrase itself appeared in a text even earlier than that.

In a 1608 work by James Anderson, the same phrase appears:

“And as our learned adversaries do thus agree to disagree in their owne translations, mutually condemning (as before) each other…”

However, this usage doesn’t imply the same tolerance as the use popularized by Wesley and Whitefield.

An early 18th-century sermon by John Piggott also used a variation of the phrase:

"And now why should we not agree to differ, without either enmity or scorn?"

Examples of 'Agree to Disagree' In Sentences

How would 'agree to disagree' be used in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • “In the story, the protagonist and the antagonist ultimately agree to disagree. It wasn’t the most thrilling end to a novel I’ve ever read.”
  • “John and Suzy had an enormous fight over the weekend. John said they should agree to disagree, but she says it’s not that simple.”
  • “It’s honestly very naive that you would expect I’d be willing to agree to disagree. This is obviously a deal-breaker.”
  • “I want to apologize if I got a bit heated in our debate. I’m passionate about these things but there was no need for me to raise my voice. I’m prepared to agree to disagree and move on.”
  • “She thought the photo I took at the park last weekend was perfect for the family newsletter. I really didn’t like that one, but I just decided to agree to disagree and let her do things her way.”

Final Thoughts About 'Agree to Disagree'

‘Agree to disagree’ is a phrase that has been in use for hundreds of years. It means to decide to tolerate each other's opinions and views even when you don’t accept them as truth for the sake of moving on from an argument.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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