Definition of ad hominem
- an ad hominem argument
- made an ad hominem personal attack on his rival
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
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."
First Known Use: 1598See Words from the same year
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.
What made you want to look up ad hominem? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
an inn where caravans rest at night
Get Word of the Day daily email!