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

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 Whitmer has drawn a direct line between the political rhetoric, especially amid the lockdowns, and the alleged plot to kidnap her. Caroline Linton, CBS News, "Michigan bans openly carrying guns at polling places on Election Day," 17 Oct. 2020 Eldridge is in the epicenter of U.S. gun-buying, driven in part by spikes of violence in Chicago and incendiary political rhetoric over its causes. NBC News, "Gun sales to first-time buyers skyrocket amid fears of 'bloody' election and unrest," 15 Oct. 2020 Political rhetoric in the current era has become increasingly divisive as well. Arpan Lobo, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan a political breeding ground for extremism," 10 Oct. 2020 Will political rhetoric ever recover from Donald Trump’s habit of rendering plain all of the metaphors used to describe him? Timothy Noah, The New Republic, "Our President Is Literally Toxic," 7 Oct. 2020 Still, the heated political rhetoric around the election process is raising concerns among Arizonans. Andrew Oxford, The Arizona Republic, "Most Arizona voters plan to cast ballots by mail despite attacks on process, poll finds," 3 Oct. 2020 Despite the public's legitimate concerns about political rhetoric, politics is not having an impact on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, several public health experts testified to Congress Wednesday. Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, "Experts: Politics will have a hard time getting in the way of a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine," 30 Sep. 2020 This can be tricky given different jurisdictional standards, the postmaster general’s actions and some current political rhetoric. Paul H. Anderson, Star Tribune, "Vote boldly, vote carefully, to ensure it counts," 24 Sep. 2020 The Trump administration’s political rhetoric about vaccine development has raised alarm among other public-health experts. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, "Fauci to a Meddling HHS Official: ‘Take a Hike’," 23 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for rhetoric

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for rhetoric

Last Updated

21 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rhetoric.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rhetoric. Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for rhetoric


How to pronounce rhetoric (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of rhetoric

often disapproving : language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable
: the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people

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