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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Mouraud’s invective was viewed over six million times, and the gilets jaunes—the yellow vests, named for the high-visibility vests that French drivers are required to keep in their cars and to wear in case of emergency—were born. James Mcauley, The New York Review of Books, "Low Visibility," 21 Mar. 2019 Phillips came back to the podium again later with more invectives and had to be admonished by members of council to use his speaking time in a civil manner. Linda Gandee/special To,, "Avon Lake council postpones for one week school-bus-passing vote for stricter penalties," 20 Aug. 2019 Representative Omar is hardly alone in that, nor are anti-Israel invective or outright anti-Semitism ever more than an arm’s length from the Democratic mainstream. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "America’s Other ‘Special Relationship’ Remains Worth Preserving," 18 Aug. 2019 But acting white didn’t stop people from hurling racist invective at her. Esmeralda Bermudez, Los Angeles Times, "Their U.S. roots date back centuries, but these Latinos still wonder if it’s enough to belong," 16 Aug. 2019 Mr Trump’s invective smacks of bigotry: congressmen from poor white districts do not receive insults in the same vein. The Economist, "How to fix Baltimore," 1 Aug. 2019 The group of 12 men mocked female politicians, celebrities and journalists with sexist and homophobic invectives. Washington Post, "Puerto Rico is in chaos, and some worry continued instability is a major threat," 18 July 2019 The invective capped almost a week of the president repeatedly employing attacks on the congresswoman and three of her minority female colleagues that lawmakers have criticized as racist. Kathleen Hunter, Fortune, "2020 Election Update: Trump ‘Not Happy’ With ‘Send Her Back’ Chants; Warren Targets Wall Street," 18 July 2019 The political rhetoric of today may have moderated slightly, but its essence has changed very little from the old invective. K. V. Turley, National Review, "Border Posts and Border Ghosts," 1 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about invective

Listen to Our Podcast about invective

Statistics for invective

Last Updated

20 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for invective

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for invective



English Language Learners Definition of invective

formal : harsh or insulting words : rude and angry language

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to spread over or through

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!