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


a barrage of racist invective hurled curses and invective at the driver who heedlessly cut them off in traffic


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

This invective didn't come out of nowhere; Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, had technically started it with an op-ed in The Guardian the day before, although the two have been publicly sparring for quite some time. Graeme Mcmillan, WIRED, "While You Were Offline: Trump Had a Very Long Week in the UK," 9 June 2019 Returning to his 2016 campaign playbook, the president delivered fiery speeches that drew massive and enthusiastic crowds but contained a breathtaking barrage of falsehoods, invective and demagoguery. Isaac Stanley-becker, The Seattle Times, "Republicans keep control of the Senate; Democrats claim House majority," 7 Nov. 2018 Graduating students will be entering a world in which invective, insult and manipulation threaten to become the norm. Michael S. Roth, Washington Post, "Our graduates should answer cynicism and insults with inquiry and reflection," 29 May 2018 Yesterday saw a presidential tweetstorm flinging dopey invective at the usual targets —Lisa Page, Hillary, et al, from a guy who appears increasingly cornered. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: “It’s All Coming Home to Roost”," 16 Dec. 2018 Racist invective, misogyny, rape and death threats, all hurled at her constantly, unrelentingly, transforming what had been a Cinderella story — The Last Jedi was Tran’s first major film —into a modern-day nightmare. Marc Bernardin, The Hollywood Reporter, "Toxic Fandom Is Killing 'Star Wars'," 11 June 2018 Today, a president tweets invective at his enemies and a member of Congress calls for more than civil disobedience. Randy Blaser,, "Our country needs to get back to the basics – it's all about equality," 28 June 2018 Infuriated, Herbert launched a stream of invective at the lad who served him. Robert Mitchell, Washington Post, "A hungry congressman didn’t get the breakfast he ordered. So he shot the waiter.," 23 June 2018 Skilled as Trump has been at deploying suspense, misdirection and invective to his advantage over the last 15 months, the Trump reality show appears closer than ever to colliding with reality itself. Brian Bennett, Time, "Donald Trump Relied on Michael Cohen to Weather the Storm. Now The President Is On His Own," 12 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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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Statistics for invective

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for invective

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

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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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Comments on invective

What made you want to look up invective? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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