ad hominem

1 of 2


ad ho·​mi·​nem (ˈ)ad-ˈhä-mə-ˌnem How to pronounce ad hominem (audio)
: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
an ad hominem argument
: 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

2 of 2


: in an ad hominem manner
was arguing ad hominem

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 typically 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 one took advantage of an opponent's interests or feelings in a debate, instead of just sticking to general principles. Ad hominem later came to be used to describe an attack aimed at an opponent's character, and this is the sense more often heard today. The hostile nature of such attacks has led to an understanding of the term as meaning "against the person," rather than its original Latin meaning of "to the person."

Examples of ad hominem in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Though Twitter was never a bastion of admirable civic discourse during the Trump years, at least it was regularly filled with sharp arguments; now that it’s run by a man who revels in ad hominem attacks (and attention), the chatter on the app is just a lot dumber. Clare Malone, The New Yorker, 13 June 2023 Part of the pleasure of the Lexicon is the simple fun of reading a takedown—more fun still because ad hominem insults were once a fixture of music criticism. Christopher Carroll, Harper's Magazine, 9 June 2023 His ad hominem insults against regulators and a heroic British Navy diver, as well as his interactions with flamboyant race-baiting figures and other diversions, seem less than smart. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Fortune, 27 Apr. 2023 Krauze, writing of AMLO, says, His speeches are littered with ad hominem attacks. . . Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 18 Apr. 2023 Adding to the predictability of his ad hominem attacks, Trump is also running out of new ways to describe his legal plight. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 10 Apr. 2023
An ad hominem attack is intended to distract the viewer from a valid argument. Dallas News, 24 July 2022 Lower in the stories, the critics could toss in some ad hominem attacks on Washington, buttressed by the facts that America was already proven a troubled preacher of its values. Philip Elliott, Time, 6 Jan. 2023 Bargh has now written a post on his own blog decrying the replication while launching ad hominem attacks at the scientists behind it, PLoS ONE, and me. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 10 Mar. 2012 Where earlier generations of combat veterans in Congress became die-hard defenders of a global military footprint, the new cohort is unafraid to launch ad hominem attacks on the men who still lead U.S. forces. Jonathan Weisman, New York Times, 15 Oct. 2022 She’s a practitioner of Trump’s scorched-earth style of politicking, leaving no ad hominem attack behind. Robert Robb, CNN, 31 Oct. 2022 The social media site has been a slough of hate speech, disinformation and ad hominem attack, contributing in a major way to the polluting of our politics. Los Angeles Times, 28 Oct. 2022 In this instance, Clyburn is speaking to historical parallels and political trends, not launching the sort of ad hominem attacks necessary to win a defamation claim. Erik Wemple, Washington Post, 4 Oct. 2022 No one likes ad hominem attacks (ad birdinem?), especially people who like mourning doves, people like Susana Isaacson. Washington Post, 9 May 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ad hominem.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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


derivative of ad hominem entry 1

First Known Use


1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1588, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ad hominem was in 1588


Dictionary Entries Near ad hominem

Cite this Entry

“Ad hominem.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

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