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adjective rhe·tor·i·cal \ri-ˈtȯr-i-kəl, -ˈtär-\

Simple Definition of rhetorical

  • : of, relating to, or concerned with the art of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people

  • of a question : asked in order to make a statement rather than to get an answer

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of rhetorical

  1. 1 a :  of, relating to, or concerned with rhetoric b :  employed for rhetorical effect; especially :  asked merely for effect with no answer expected <a rhetorical question>

  2. 2 a :  given to rhetoric :  grandiloquent b :  verbal

rhetorically play \-i-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of rhetorical in a sentence

  1. McKinney made her name in Georgia politics as a rhetorical bomb-thrower. Colleagues in the statehouse dubbed her “Hanoi Cynthia” after a 1991 speech denouncing the Persian Gulf War. —Bill Turque, Newsweek, 29 Nov. 1993

  2. Clinton's acceptance speech evidenced some of the classical rhetorical devices such as paronomasia, or punning, and anaphora, or repetition of key words or phrases. —Leo McManus, English Today, October 1993

  3. “Take that river down there, for instance. It conforms pretty much to the map, doesn't it?” I assumed he was asking a rhetorical question and kept my mouth shut. —Marshall Harrison, A Lonely Kind of War, 1989

  4. … he [Thomas Wolfe] crammed his novels with lavish apostrophes to Life and Death and Loneliness and Sorrow, covering page after page with grandiose rhetorical flourishes … , pseudo-Homeric epithets … , wooden dialogue and pious homilies about “the brevity of our days.” —James Atlas, New York Times Book Review, 2 Dec. 1979

  5. My question was rhetorical. I wasn't really expecting an answer.

  6. <you can skip over the rhetorical passages and still get the gist of the essay>

Variants of rhetorical

also rhetoric play \ri-ˈtȯr-ik, -ˈtär-\

Origin of rhetorical

(see rhetoric)

First Known Use: 15th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

Rhymes with rhetorical

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up rhetorical? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to dishevel or rumple

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