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noun dis·course \ˈdis-ˌkȯrs, dis-ˈ\

Simple Definition of discourse

  • : the use of words to exchange thoughts and ideas

  • : a long talk or piece of writing about a subject

Full Definition of discourse

  1. 1 archaic :  the capacity of orderly thought or procedure :  rationality

  2. 2 :  verbal interchange of ideas; especially :  conversation

  3. 3 a :  formal and orderly and usually extended expression of thought on a subject b :  connected speech or writing c :  a linguistic unit (as a conversation or a story) larger than a sentence

  4. 4 obsolete :  social familiarity

  5. 5 :  a mode of organizing knowledge, ideas, or experience that is rooted in language and its concrete contexts (as history or institutions) <critical discourse>

Examples of discourse

  1. Hans Selye, a Czech physician and biochemist at the University of Montreal, took these ideas further, introducing the term “stress” (borrowed from metallurgy) to describe the way trauma caused overactivity of the adrenal gland, and with it a disruption of bodily equilibrium. In the most extreme case, Selye argued, stress could wear down the body's adaptation mechanisms, resulting in death. His narrative fit well into the cultural discourse of the cold-war era, where, Harrington writes, many saw themselves as “broken by modern life.” —Jerome Groopman, New York Times Book Review, 27 Jan. 2008

  2. Such is the exquisite refinement of American political discourse in the early 21st century. —Brad Friedman, Mother Jones, January & February 2006

  3. Literature records itself, shows how its records might be broken, and how the assumptions of a given discourse or culture might thereby be challenged. Shakespeare is, again, the great example. —Richard Poirier, Raritan Reading, 1990

  4. He likes to engage in lively discourse with his visitors.

  5. She delivered an entertaining discourse on the current state of the film industry.

Origin of discourse

Middle English discours, from Medieval Latin & Late Latin discursus; Medieval Latin, argument, from Late Latin, conversation, from Latin, act of running about, from discurrere to run about, from dis- + currere to run — more at car

First Known Use: 14th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms



verb dis·course \dis-ˈkȯrs, ˈdis-ˌ\

Simple Definition of discourse

  • : to talk about something especially for a long time

Full Definition of discourse


  1. intransitive verb
  2. 1 :  to express oneself especially in oral discourse (see 1discourse)

  3. 2 :  talk, converse

  4. transitive verb
  5. archaic :  to give forth :  utter

dis·cours·er noun

Examples of discourse

  1. The most energetic ingredients in a Ken Burns documentary are the intervals of commentary, the talking heads of historians, sociologists, and critics coming at us in living color and discoursing volubly. —Richard Alleva, Commonweal, 22 Feb. 2002

  2. Clarke had discoursed knowledgeably on the implications of temperature for apples; it was too cool here for … Winesaps, or Granny Smiths, none of which mature promptly enough to beat autumn's first freeze. —David Guterson, Harper's, October 1999

  3. … Bill Clinton was up in the sky-box suites, giving interviews. So The Baltimore Sun's guy on the job was Carl Cannon and he took notes while Clinton discoursed on the importance of Ripken's streak, the value of hard work, the lessons communicated to our youth in a nation troubled by blah blah blah. —Richard Ben Cramer, Newsweek, 22 Mar. 1999

  4. She could discourse for hours on almost any subject.

  5. <the guest lecturer discoursed at some length on the long-term results of the war>

Origin of discourse

(see 1discourse)

First Known Use: 1559

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February 12, 2016

of, relating to, or suggestive of marble

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