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

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: Adverb Speaking of Tesla, like populist politicians, Bitcoin proponents Elon Musk and Peter Thiel reacted to Buffett’s comments on Bitcoin with ad hominem attacks. Peter Cohan, Forbes, 3 May 2022 But particular rhetorical tactics, including namecalling, accusations of bad faith, ad hominem attacks, or categorical dismissal of certain positions almost certainly won't. Samuel Goldman, The Week, 21 Mar. 2022 Dogma, ad hominem attacks, and hate speech were not permissible. Jennifer Miller, The Atlantic, 4 Feb. 2022 Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy. Zadie Smith, The New Yorker, 23 Jan. 2022 This bald assertion is followed by a lofty shutting-down of any debate on the matter—yet there’s been no substantive rejection of my arguments, only woolly appeals to subjectivity and ad hominem remarks. Harper’s Magazine , 18 Jan. 2022 Trump is such a facile talker — one who specializes in dazzling displays of distraction, ad hominem attacks and repetition — that challenging him effectively in real time can be almost impossible. Washington Post, 14 Jan. 2022 Relying on an anecdote, arguing ad hominem — these should be mortifying. David Marchesephotograph By Mamadi Doumbouya, New York Times, 3 Sep. 2021 In the new scheme Chi concocted, FAKA would be stripped of its Fela Kuti digital mask to reveal the face of Repo, a notorious Yoruba politician known for his ad hominem attacks on other ethnic groups. Wired, 1 Sep. 2021 See More

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.

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 2 Jul. 2022.

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