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

Some leaders deliberately use the terms refugee and migrant interchangeably, using hostile rhetoric that whips up fear against all outsiders. Angelina Jolie, Time, "Angelina Jolie: What We Owe Refugees," 19 June 2019 Solmonese was responding to a question about whether President Donald Trump's rhetoric had raised security concerns for the convention. Mary Spicuzza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Security will be a 'primary concern' at 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee," 19 June 2019 After February's failed Trump-Kim summit, the North expressed its displeasure with short-range missile tests and belligerent rhetoric against Washington and Seoul. Fox News, "What China, North Korea are looking to achieve with summit," 18 June 2019 Yet official rhetoric hasn’t matched action sometimes: the government blocked the internet in the eastern Somali region last year to quell protests. Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz Africa, "Ethiopia’s tech startups are ready to run the world, but the internet keeps getting blocked," 18 June 2019 While both sides are trying to find a way forward, the Hong Kong protests have sparked another wave of antagonism and rhetoric between the US and China. Ben Westcott, CNN, "Trump may raise Hong Kong protests with Xi as city remains a thorn in Beijing's side," 17 June 2019 González attributes the growth in Latinos' political activism and power to the backlash against President Donald Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric. Dallas News, "Hispanics get more political clout in Dallas, North Texas as new, younger leaders emerge," 17 June 2019 The answer is Smithe, and thousands like him, Mexico City artists who don’t waste time thinking about walls and self-serving politics and divisive rhetoric. Ray Mark Rinaldi, The Know, "One of Mexico City’s trendsetters is bringing his art and music to Denver," 16 June 2019 That, according to conservative rhetoric, is what good women do. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why Anti-Choice People Are Okay with IVF," 14 June 2019

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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More Definitions for rhetoric



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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Comments on rhetoric

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


to take the place or position of

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