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 Each side ended up hurling bitter invective against each other, much of which was true. David Graeber, The New York Review of Books, "The Center Blows Itself Up: Care and Spite in the ‘Brexit Election’," 13 Jan. 2020 Maza, who is Latino and openly gay, became a target of conservative personality Steven Crowder, who repeatedly hurled homophobic and racist invectives against Maza in the videos shared with his millions of subscribers. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "New YouTube policy tries to ban “implied” threats, “malicious” insults," 11 Dec. 2019 Among them, Dinesh ranks as a special case, on account of Nanjiani's arid delivery of juvenile invective and sociopathic posturing. Troy Patterson, The New Yorker, "The Top Thirty Cultural Moments of the Twenty-Tens," 22 Dec. 2019 Like impassioned sports fans, their conflicts play out on social media, where detractors and worshippers swap insults and Delta-v rocket equations with equal invective. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "The SpaceX Decade: How One Company Changed Spaceflight Forever," 12 Dec. 2019 Hun Sen is taking no chances with his arch-enemy’s intended return, keeping up a drumbeat of invectives and threats. Washington Post, "Cambodian opposition chief readies return from exile," 5 Nov. 2019 This is 2019, and one of the villains is a pale teen boy who posts offensive invective on Twitter. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Knives Out Is No Ordinary Murder Mystery," 27 Nov. 2019 Apart from offering a primer in Chinese political invective, Ms. Hua’s scornful response illustrated how brittle Chinese-American relations have become. Chris Buckley, New York Times, "China’s Response to Pence Speech: ‘Sheer Arrogance’," 25 Oct. 2019 If that's you, head to the comments now and unleash that invective! Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "Ford opens its order books for Mustang Mach-E electric crossover," 14 Nov. 2019 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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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

8 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Invective.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for invective


How to pronounce invective (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of invective

formal : harsh or insulting words : rude and angry language

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