1

ad hominem

adjective ad ho·mi·nem \ (ˈ)ad-ˈhä-mə-ˌnem , -nəm \
Updated on: 15 Nov 2017

Definition of ad hominem

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 was our Word of the Day on 10/28/2012. Hear the podcast!

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."

Origin and Etymology of ad hominem

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


2

ad hominem

adverb

Definition of ad hominem

: in an ad hominem manner
  • was arguing ad hominem

Recent Examples of ad hominem from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of ad hominem

derivative of 1ad hominem


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