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

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 With its reliance on the media and its light-on-the-law ad hominem attacks, Mr. Avenatti’s style of lawyering seems, ironically, to share much with the one employed by Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s chief lawyer. Alan Feuer, New York Times, "Michael Cohen Circus Has a Ringmaster: Porn Actress’s Lawyer," 15 May 2018 Maggie Haberman, a New York Times reporter covering the White House, called Sanders brave for sitting through the jokes, which Haberman found to be too ad hominem. Rebecca Farley,, "Is This The Most Controversial WHCD Of All Time?," 30 Apr. 2018 Nor will the ad hominem name-calling that Trump delights in on Twitter impress Putin or Assad. Trudy Rubin,, "Trump tweet on missile strike underscores the incoherence of his Syria policy | Trudy Rubin," 11 Apr. 2018 Since joining the fight for sensible gun policy—and bringing her voice to Twitter—she's faced an onslaught of criticism and ad hominem attacks from gun supporters. Dave Holmes, Esquire, "This Is My Plan to Beat the NRA at Its Own Game. It's Already Working.," 9 Mar. 2018 The intensity of Mulvaney’s repeated gibes at Warren for questioning his leadership of the agency stands out even in Donald Trump’s Washington, where the tone of policy debates is often acid and ad hominem. Liz Goodwin,, "Warren’s consumer dream dismantled," 3 Mar. 2018 In our ad hominem world, this gives me great comfort. Rosa Inocencio Smith, The Atlantic, "The Atlantic Daily: Atrocity's Aftermath," 3 Oct. 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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Dictionary Entries near ad hominem

ad hocism

ad hockery


ad hominem




Statistics for ad hominem

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Time Traveler for ad hominem

The first known use of ad hominem was in 1588

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


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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