in·​vec·​tive | \ in-ˈvek-tiv How to pronounce invective (audio) \

Definition of invective

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : insulting or abusive language : vituperation
2 : an abusive expression or speech



Definition of invective (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or characterized by insult or abuse

Other Words from invective


invectively adverb
invectiveness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for invective


abuse, vituperation, invective, obloquy, billingsgate mean vehemently expressed condemnation or disapproval. abuse, the most general term, usually implies the anger of the speaker and stresses the harshness of the language. scathing verbal abuse vituperation implies fluent and sustained abuse. a torrent of vituperation invective implies a comparable vehemence but suggests greater verbal and rhetorical skill and may apply to a public denunciation. blistering political invective obloquy suggests defamation and consequent shame and disgrace. subjected to obloquy and derision billingsgate implies practiced fluency and variety of profane or obscene abuse. directed a stream of billingsgate at the cabdriver

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Invective originated in the 15th century as an adjective meaning "of, relating to, or characterized by insult or abuse." In the early 16th century, it appeared in print as a noun meaning "an example of abusive speech." Eventually, the noun developed a second sense applying to abusive language as a whole. Invective comes to us from the Middle French word invectif, which in turn derives from Latin invectivus, meaning "reproachful, abusive." (Invectivus comes from Latin invectus, past participle of the verb invehere, one form of which means "to assail with words.") Invective is similar to abuse, but it tends to suggest not only anger and vehemence but verbal and rhetorical skill. It sometimes implies public denunciation, as in "blistering political invective."

Examples of invective in a Sentence

Noun a barrage of racist invective hurled curses and invective at the driver who heedlessly cut them off in traffic Adjective an overbearing, bullying boss who is fond of sending invective e-mails to long-suffering assistants
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The message was posted anonymously on YikYak, a social media network popular on college campuses, and was part of a wave of online invective that had been building around her since the early afternoon. Globe Staff,, 14 May 2022 Mention the commissioner to a player and invective invariably follows. Peter Abraham,, 9 Apr. 2022 The defendant, Tyson Theodore Mayfield, ran up to a Black woman at a bus stop, a swastika tattoo on his abdomen showing, then launched into his racist invective. Los Angeles Times, 23 Feb. 2022 Mixing campaign news with astute media criticism, outrageous satire, and scorching invective, Thompson took his revenge on Muskie, Humphrey, and Nixon. Peter Richardson, The New Republic, 28 Jan. 2022 Reporters at the nation’s most high-profile news outlets have a tendency to treat taunts and invective directed at the current occupant of the White House much differently than the way the same thing was covered during the Trump years. Andy Meek, Forbes, 24 Oct. 2021 The current administration isn’t hurling invective at individual reporters or the media in general, and the White House press briefing is back in regular rotation. Brian Steinberg, Variety, 19 Jan. 2022 He was declared unwelcome in France and Germany for his saber-rattling invective against those countries. Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2022 However, some political observers say Reichert and her colleagues opened the door for that invective. Deborah Sullivan Brennan, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Critics have praised both the show and Australian actor Jason Clarke’s intense portrayal of West as a volatile man given to bursts of invective, impressive in their duration and profane inventiveness. David Wharton, Los Angeles Times, 28 Apr. 2022 Two Minutes Hate, with a bit of invective reserved for the mercurial Senator Kyrsten Sinema, may feel cathartic. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 23 Dec. 2021 His invective blends projection and wishful thinking. Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture, 14 Dec. 2021 The report also said board members received threatening and invective-laden emails. Cory Shaffer, cleveland, 16 Nov. 2021 Daldry achieves latitude by balancing invective with humor in confrontations that are always honest and leveling. Armond White, National Review, 3 Sep. 2021 The column is a strange mélange of quotes from celebrities, conservative political analysis, invective against foes real and perceived, anecdotes about the peculiarity of life in Manhattan, and aphorisms and puns. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 20 Aug. 2021 Arizona Republican Representative Andy Biggs unleashed a torrent of invective and false claims against Democrats, never-Trump Republicans and the news media and called for the president’s supporters to protest and take every legal avenue to fight. Steven T. Dennis,, 7 Nov. 2020 On social media, anger and invective start flowing. Darryn King, Wired, 10 June 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'invective.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of invective


1523, in the meaning defined at sense 2


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for invective


Middle English invectif, from Middle French, from Latin invectivus, from invectus, past participle of invehere

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The first known use of invective was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Invective.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on invective

Nglish: Translation of invective for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of invective for Arabic Speakers


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