noun \ˈre-tə-rik\

: language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable

: the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people

Full Definition of RHETORIC

:  the art of speaking or writing effectively: as
a :  the study of principles and rules of composition formulated by critics of ancient times
b :  the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion
a :  skill in the effective use of speech
b :  a type or mode of language or speech; also :  insincere or grandiloquent language
:  verbal communication :  discourse

Examples of RHETORIC

  1. a college course in rhetoric
  2. <the mayor's promise to fight drugs was just rhetoric, since there was no money in the city budget for a drug program>
  3. The media almost never discuss what the sweeping dismantling of public services inherent in the rhetoric of the antigovernment movement would mean in practice. —E. J. Dionne, Jr., Commonweal, 20 Nov. 2009

Origin of RHETORIC

Middle English rethorik, from Anglo-French rethorique, from Latin rhetorica, from Greek rhētorikē, literally, art of oratory, from feminine of rhētorikos of an orator, from rhētōr orator, rhetorician, from eirein to say, speak — more at word
First Known Use: 14th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

ablaut, allusion, anacoluthon, diacritic, gerund, idiom, infinitive, metaphor, semiotics, simile


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Principles of training communicators. It may entail the study of principles and rules of composition formulated by critics of ancient times, and it can also involve the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion. Classical rhetoric probably developed along with democracy in Syracuse (Sicily) in the 5th century BC, when dispossessed landowners argued claims before their fellow citizens. Shrewd speakers sought help from teachers of oratory, called rhetors. This use of language was of interest to philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle because the oratorical arguments called into question the relationships among language, truth, and morality. The Romans recognized separate aspects of the process of composing speeches, a compartmentalization that grew more pronounced with time. Renaissance scholars and poets studied rhetoric closely, and it was a central concern of humanism. In all times and places where rhetoric has been significant, listening and reading and speaking and writing have been the critical skills necessary for effective communication.


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