ad hominem

ad ho·​mi·​nem | \ (ˈ)ad-ˈhä-mə-ˌnem How to pronounce ad hominem (audio) , -nəm \

Definition of ad hominem

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect an ad hominem argument
2 : marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made made an ad hominem personal attack on his rival

ad hominem


Definition of ad hominem (Entry 2 of 2)

: in an ad hominem manner was arguing ad hominem

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Did You Know?


Ad hominem literally means "to the person" in New Latin (Latin as first used in post-medieval texts). In centuries past, this adjective usually modified "argument." An "argument ad hominem" (or "argumentum ad hominem," to use the full New Latin phrase) was a valid method of persuasion by which a person took advantage of his or her opponent's interests or feelings in a debate, instead of just sticking to general principles. The newer sense of "ad hominem," which suggests an attack on an opponent's character instead of his or her argument, appeared only in the last century, but it is the sense more often heard today. The word still refers to putting personal issues above other matters, but perhaps because of its old association with "argument," "ad hominem" has become, in effect, "against the person."

Examples of ad hominem in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb That is why sneering, intellectual dishonesty, lies, insults, ad hominem, etc. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "Small Policy Tweaks Won’t Fix Facebook," 20 Oct. 2019 Without a person to attack ad hominem, Anonymous writes, Trump will be forced to deal with the revelations themselves. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, "What Does “A Warning,” by Anonymous, Really Tell Us?," 19 Nov. 2019 Despite some pointed comments throughout the debate, the candidates never raised their voices or resorted to ad hominem attacks. Morgan Edwards, Washington Post, "12th Senate District candidates debate issues, controversies," 21 Oct. 2019 Her detractors increasingly rely on ad hominem attacks to blunt her influence. Scott Waldman, Scientific American, "Climate Deniers Launch Personal Attacks on Teen Activist," 9 Aug. 2019 Unfortunately, Guyatt’s review, with its ad hominem attacks, dogmatic factionalism, and historical lesions, apparently has another agenda. Nicholas Guyatt, The New York Review of Books, "‘No Property in Man’: An Exchange," 6 June 2019 Discussion in online forums and social media often descends into ad hominem attacks. WSJ, "Voices From a Divided America," 29 Oct. 2018 Do not applaud anyone who engages in name-calling or ad hominem attacks. Dan Rodricks,, "Rodricks: 10 ways to be a great American citizen for the Fourth of July," 3 July 2018 And while most Twitter wars tend to degrade into a pile of insults and ad hominem attacks, this one remained as nerdy and polite as only a debate between two British museums could be (Game of Thrones references included). Caitlin Morton, CNT, "Two British Museums Got Into a Twitter War—And It's Amazing," 18 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ad hominem.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ad hominem


1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1588, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ad hominem


borrowed from New Latin, literally, "to the person"


derivative of ad hominem entry 1

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Time Traveler for ad hominem

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The first known use of ad hominem was in 1588

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Cite this Entry

“Ad hominem.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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