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

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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

Did You Know?


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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The case is set for trial in 2021 and, if past copyright clashes are any indication, is likely to give rise to nasty invective on both sides—a situation Bailey decries. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "As libraries fight for access to e-books, a new copyright champion emerges," 28 Nov. 2020 In unfavorable reviews, culinary diction escalates into a form of operatic invective. Theodore Gioia, The New Republic, "Death to the Negative Restaurant Review," 16 Dec. 2020 When Nunes, Patel, Gorka, Solomon, Posobiec, and others point out the media mendacity that has perpetrated the hoax, their heroic invective is worthy of the best crusading political spectacles ever filmed. Armond White, National Review, "The Plot Against the President Bridges the Conservative Generation Gap," 9 Dec. 2020 How much ugly invective, interference, and trash-talking counts as too much? Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The Atlantic, "Can Children Be Persuaded to Love a Parent They Hate?," 24 Nov. 2020 And rolling through a stream of consciousness invective that was justifiable after his team’s ugly 41-25 loss to the Packers the previous night. Dan Wiederer,, "Chicago Bears Week 13 storylines: The instant success of interim coaches, David Montgomery’s longest run and Matt Nagy’s stern tone," 4 Dec. 2020 The small-town gesture drew national attention, and with it, online invective from some far-right voices. Angela Charlton, Star Tribune, "Horrified by deadly attacks, French Muslims protect church," 6 Nov. 2020 That quickly spread to invective for Taylor, followed by woe-is-us and general malaise. Paul Daugherty, USA TODAY, "Opinion: The Cincinnati Bengals owe quarterback Joe Burrow better than this," 23 Nov. 2020 Her campaign relied on innuendo and invective, and Kelly’s victory was a bright spot in an evening that was more difficult than Democrats had hoped. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, "Trump’s Brief Speech from the White House Made America’s Troubles Worse," 4 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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,, "GOP Silence Leaves Trump Raging Mostly Alone Against Biden," 7 Nov. 2020 On social media, anger and invective start flowing. Darryn King, Wired, "The Last of Us Part II and Its Crisis-Strewn Path to Release," 10 June 2020 When the quit this year, , a tsunami of invective washed over social media, calling him a communist, a traitor, a crook. Washington Post, "An investigation into fake news targets Brazil’s Bolsonaros, and critics fear a constitutional crisis," 3 June 2020 Please come to the plate with facts and reason, not invective. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc's Morning Line: Sports is a breather and a vacation. We need a vacation right now.," 3 June 2020 This is not a time for cynicism or invective or second-guessing. Andrew Taylor, Fortune, "Trump signs $2.2 trillion stimulus after swift congressional votes," 27 Mar. 2020 Hytner tends to stay away from the self-revealing (except for his run-in with Harold Pinter, which is so invective-strewn it can’t be reproduced here without making the paragraph look like a night sky of asterisks). Peter Lewis, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Balancing Acts' author Nicholas Hytner looks back at a successful career at London’s National Theatre," 8 Dec. 2017

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.

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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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Time Traveler for invective

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

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Last Updated

31 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Invective.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for invective



English Language Learners Definition of invective

formal : harsh or insulting words : rude and angry language

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