diatribe

noun
di·​a·​tribe | \ ˈdī-ə-ˌtrīb How to pronounce diatribe (audio) \

Definition of diatribe

1 : a bitter and abusive speech or piece of writing
2 : ironic or satirical criticism
3 archaic : a prolonged discourse

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History of Diatribe

In modern times, a diatribe is not something most of us want to endure:

Our manager privately subjected a few of us to a lengthy diatribe about how terrible the company's new policy is.

I'd prefer a reasoned argument to the diatribes that typically litter the newspaper's editorial page.

That wasn't true in the word's early days, though.

When English speakers adopted diatribe in the late 16th century, they were glancing back at the ancients. The word comes from Greek diatribē, meaning "pastime" or "discourse," by way of Latin diatriba. The English word first referred to the popular lectures of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, the usual topic of which was ethics.

When the word diatribe referred to written work in this context, that work was understood to be either a transcription of such a lecture, or a written development of one. According to some, these oral and written diatribes were the model on which modern sermons were built.

Over time, this very specific meaning of diatribe developed a more general meaning that didn't require the ancients themselves: any prolonged discourse—written or oral—could be considered a diatribe. That sense of the word, however, is now archaic; you don't typically find it in modern contexts.

When diatribe is used today, the connotation is quite different. The word most often refers to a bitter or abusive speech or piece of writing, as in the examples given above.

Examples of diatribe in a Sentence

… his apparent inability to keep his pen from drifting from the main objective of his words into diatribe must have taken away from the sound and otherwise convincing arguments that he advanced. — Henry Petroski, Engineers of Dreams, 1995 I looked … and listened to her ahistorical and apolitical diatribe. Her comments were a more extreme form of the kind of Black bashing I've often heard … — Itabari Njeri, "Sushi and Grits," in Lure and Loathing1993 … gradually I realize the headman's diatribe has begun to feature a new term I was unfamiliar with at the time—the word for caterpillar, as it turns out, in the Iban dialect. — T. Coraghessan Boyle, Harper's, April 1993 The article is a diatribe against mainstream media. a bitter diatribe about how unfair the tax system is
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Recent Examples on the Web

The answer is the latter, in case there was any doubt — but Eddo-Lodge’s diatribe certainly wouldn’t give you that impression. Sahil Handa, National Review, "Why I’m No Longer Talking to Anyone about Anything," 13 June 2019 The two leaders worked to ease tensions after the diatribe, which threatened to divert attention away from the WWI commemoration. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, ""Friendship tree" planted by Presidents Trump and Macron has died," 10 June 2019 This was nothing but a left wing anti-Trump diatribe. Fox News, "GOP chair says they will sue Chicago public schools for supporting political student walkout," 15 Mar. 2018 Baldwin may have a point: At a rally last week in El Paso, Texas, a Trump supporter shoved several members of the media, apparently motivated by the president’s anti-media diatribes. Emily Heil, The Seattle Times, "Alec Baldwin wonders whether Trump’s ‘SNL’ attack poses ‘a threat to my safety’," 19 Feb. 2019 Finally, the truest weather vane of the political winds is freshman Sen. Mitt Romney’s maiden diatribe against President Trump in the Washington Post. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "The Right’s Resistance," 9 Jan. 2019 Get our daily newsletter Her preface is a diatribe against the poverty of intellectual debate in America, and anyone wedded unquestioningly to a creed—whether Marxism, capitalism, Freudianism or Christianity—will read this book with discomfort. The Economist, "A novelist opinesA defence of the humanities and humankind’s “natural grandeur”," 22 Feb. 2018 Chatbots trained on human data slide into racist diatribes, while A.I. hiring managers organically develop wildly sexist worldviews based on preexisting data. Kevin Dupzyk, Popular Mechanics, "How 'Ex Machina' Foresaw the Weaponization of Data," 16 Jan. 2019 At one such meeting with Pelosi and Schumer in the White House Situation Room earlier this month, the president went on a long diatribe about unrelated topics. Seung-min Kim, The Seattle Times, "Inside Trump’s defiance on the longest shutdown ever," 13 Jan. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'diatribe.' 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 diatribe

1581, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for diatribe

Latin diatriba, from Greek diatribē pastime, discourse, from diatribein to spend (time), wear away, from dia- + tribein to rub — more at throw entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near diatribe

diatoric

Diatraea

diatreme

diatribe

diatropic

diatropism

Diatryma

Statistics for diatribe

Last Updated

22 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for diatribe

The first known use of diatribe was in 1581

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More Definitions for diatribe

diatribe

noun

English Language Learners Definition of diatribe

formal : an angry and usually long speech or piece of writing that strongly criticizes someone or something

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More from Merriam-Webster on diatribe

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with diatribe

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for diatribe

Spanish Central: Translation of diatribe

Nglish: Translation of diatribe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about diatribe

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