rhet·​o·​ric | \ ˈre-tə-rik How to pronounce rhetoric (audio) \

Essential Meaning of rhetoric

1 often disapproving : language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable absolutist/activist/racist rhetoric angry rhetoric See More Examplesa speech free of (empty) rhetoric the rhetoric of politicsHide
2 : the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people a college course in rhetoric classical rhetoric

Full Definition of rhetoric

1 : the art of speaking or writing effectively: such as
a : the study of principles and rules of composition formulated by critics of ancient times
b : the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion
2a : skill in the effective use of speech
b : a type or mode of language or speech also : insincere or grandiloquent language
3 : verbal communication : discourse

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Examples of rhetoric in a Sentence

The media almost never discuss what the sweeping dismantling of public services inherent in the rhetoric of the antigovernment movement would mean in practice. — E. J. Dionne, Jr., Commonweal, 20 Nov. 2009 What they are in reality are the romantic words of a man who needs glorious rhetoric to cover up murderous reality. — Pete Hamill, Cosmopolitan, April 1976 No speech could have been more thoroughly honest in its intention: the frigid rhetoric at the end was as sincere as the bark of a dog, or the cawing of an amorous rook. — George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1872 Otherwise he might have been a great general, blowing up all sorts of towns, or he might have been a great politician, dealing in all sorts of parliamentary rhetoric; but as it was, he and the Court of Chancery had fallen upon each other in the pleasantest way, and nobody was much the worse … — Charles Dickens, Bleak House, 1852-53 a college course in rhetoric the mayor's promise to fight drugs was just rhetoric, since there was no money in the city budget for a drug program
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Recent Examples on the Web In the politically tumultuous two years following the 2019 Hong Kong protests, China has extended more and more of its reach into the city -- and in return, Lam's administration has stepped up its rhetoric emphasizing integration with the mainland. Jessie Yeung, CNN, 8 Oct. 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed that rhetoric. Washington Post, 8 Oct. 2021 Rather than relying on rhetoric, the Biden Administration needs a credible roadmap to achieve emissions targets, which is only achievable if they are fully funded. Michael Sheldrick, Forbes, 7 Oct. 2021 However, over the past few years, there’s been an increase in discriminatory rhetoric towards people of various marginalized identities, like those in different communities of color and those who are LGBTQ+. Melissa Matthews, SELF, 5 Oct. 2021 For one thing, a number of progressive lawmakers and groups have sounded alarm over the unintended consequences of taking a hard stance against Beijing, particularly as such rhetoric fuels the demonization of Asian Americans at home. Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic, 5 Oct. 2021 Heated rhetoric about tyranny, unfounded claims and apocryphal stories filled the air as the Business and Labor Interim Committee worked to keep public comment on topic and to a rigid one-minute time limit. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Oct. 2021 Every game counts, per the Cardinals' rhetoric there are no trap games against bad teams or higher profile games against dominant opponents in the 17-week season. Dana Scott, The Arizona Republic, 30 Sep. 2021 Generational identity rhetoric in the workplace has already begun to affect Gen Z. Mirel Zaman, refinery29.com, 30 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rhetoric.' 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 rhetoric

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for rhetoric

Middle English rethorik, from Anglo-French rethorique, from Latin rhetorica, from Greek rhētorikē, literally, art of oratory, from feminine of rhētorikos of an orator, from rhētōr orator, rhetorician, from eirein to say, speak — more at word

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The first known use of rhetoric was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

10 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rhetoric.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rhetoric. Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on rhetoric

Nglish: Translation of rhetoric for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rhetoric for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about rhetoric


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