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noun rhet·o·ric \ˈre-tə-rik\

Simple Definition of rhetoric

  • : 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

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of rhetoric

  1. 1 :  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

  2. 2 a :  skill in the effective use of speech b :  a type or mode of language or speech; also :  insincere or grandiloquent language

  3. 3 :  verbal communication :  discourse

Examples of rhetoric in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. What they are in reality are the romantic words of a man who needs glorious rhetoric to cover up murderous reality. —Pete Hamill, Cosmopolitan, April 1976

  3. No speech could have been more thoroughly honest in its intention: the frigid rhetoric at the end was as sincere as the bark of a dog, or the cawing of an amorous rook. —George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1872

  4. Otherwise he might have been a great general, blowing up all sorts of towns, or he might have been a great politician, dealing in all sorts of parliamentary rhetoric; but as it was, he and the Court of Chancery had fallen upon each other in the pleasantest way, and nobody was much the worse… —Charles Dickens, Bleak House, 1852-53

  5. a college course in rhetoric

  6. <the mayor's promise to fight drugs was just rhetoric, since there was no money in the city budget for a drug program>

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

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