diatribe

noun
di·a·tribe | \ ˈdī-ə-ˌtrīb \

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

Stay tuned for his inevitable diatribe against apple pie. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Attacks, Threatens Harley-Davidson for Moving Production to Europe," 26 June 2018 Top Russian defense and security officials on Wednesday launched diatribes at the West, accusing it of fomenting a new Cold War in a bid to retain waning influence in global affairs. Vladimir Isachenkov, chicagotribune.com, "Russian officials accuse West of fomenting new Cold War," 4 Apr. 2018 His diatribe against Mexican rapists became an instant hit among the same populous voters who had cheered candidates like Cain and Bachmann. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Like Bush and Obama, Trump gets stuck on immigration," 21 June 2018 Their routine is ‘Diamond and Silk,’ the names Lynnette, 46, and Rochelle, 47, used to go viral during the presidential campaign with their chatty diatribes on politics. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Bill Cosby’s conviction is a watershed. It also shows how hard it is to hold alleged abusers accountable.," 27 Apr. 2018 But not before Merkel and other top officials in the German government had publicly fired back at Trump’s breakfast diatribe. Tessa Berenson/brussels, Time, "'NATO Is Much Stronger Now': Trump Claims Victory After Contentious Summit," 12 July 2018 Recently, Baker found himself in Los Angeles at the time of West’s TMZ diatribe with two footwear options: a pair of Black Cement Air Jordans 3s—and his Yeezy 350s. Julian Kimble, GQ, "So Appalled: Kanye West Fans Debate What to Do with All that Yeezy Merch," 22 June 2018 Trump lashed out at Mueller’s probe and the Justice Department in an eight-minute diatribe to reporters Monday evening. Greg Farrell, Bloomberg.com, "Trump’s Alleged Affairs Become a Legal Threat After Raid on His Lawyer," 10 Apr. 2018 As a result, Instagram feels more intimate than Facebook, where photos and videos often sit alongside lengthy diatribes, restaurant check-ins and mundane status updates. Kevin Roose, New York Times, "What if a Healthier Facebook Is Just … Instagram?," 22 Jan. 2018

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

17 Aug 2018

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

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

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Comments on diatribe

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