rhetoric

noun

rhet·​o·​ric ˈre-tə-rik How to pronounce rhetoric (audio)
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
2
a
: 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

Example Sentences

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web Rowling’s comments transphobic, and claim that her influence has contributed to an uptick in anti-trans rhetoric in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Janay Kingsberry, Washington Post, 23 Jan. 2023 The recent explosion in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric across the country is dramatically affecting LGBTQ youth — especially transgender and nonbinary kids and young adults — according to a poll released Thursday. Muri Assunção, Chicago Tribune, 21 Jan. 2023 The recent explosion in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric across the country is dramatically affecting LGBTQ youth — especially transgender and nonbinary kids and young adults — according to a poll released this week. Muri Assunção, Hartford Courant, 21 Jan. 2023 Now, recent outbreaks paired with a rise in anti-vax rhetoric have some experts worried. Maggie O'neill, SELF, 16 Dec. 2022 Aside from the surge in trope-laced rhetoric, LGBTQ Americans have also been subjected to threats or acts of violence. Matt Lavietes, NBC News, 1 Dec. 2022 Locally, upticks in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric usually come around election season, Poth said. Hailey Branson-pottsstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 28 Nov. 2022 But a report in August that documented a surge in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on social media by politicians and other public figures named Boebert as one of the worst offenders. Nicole Fallert, USA TODAY, 28 Nov. 2022 Right now, fighting the Fed creates the risk that the Fed itself has to fight back, by becoming more hawkish, at least in rhetoric, to avoid financial conditions loosening too much. James Mackintosh, WSJ, 16 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near rhetoric

Cite this Entry

“Rhetoric.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rhetoric. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

rhetoric

noun
rhet·​o·​ric ˈret-ə-rik How to pronounce rhetoric (audio)
1
: the art of speaking or writing effectively
2
: the study or use of the principles and rules of composition
3
a
: skill in the effective use of speech
b
: language that is not honest, sincere, or meaningful
rhetorician
ˌret-ə-ˈrish-ən
noun

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