rhet·​o·​ric | \ ˈre-tə-rik \

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

The rush by businesses to obtain low-skilled foreign workers to fill short-term jobs comes at a time when the Trump administration is ratcheting up rhetoric around immigration policy and building a wall along the southern U.S. border. Eric Morath, WSJ, "Labor Secretary Calls for Overhaul of Low-Skill Immigration System," 18 Jan. 2019 In the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting, many called out Trump’s dangerous rhetoric and refusal to denounce white nationalism as undoubtedly contributing to such violence. Emma Sarran Webster, Teen Vogue, "Reported Hate Crimes Rose 17% During Donald Trump's First Year in Office, According to the FBI," 14 Nov. 2018 This timing appears to follow Gunn's increasing anti-Trump rhetoric and use of the #IMPEACHTRUMPNOW hashtag on Twitter. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Disney confirms Guardians director fired over years-old tweets," 20 July 2018 There were the Black Lives Matter pages that used a lot of very extreme rhetoric and talking about police. Recode Staff, Recode, "Full transcript: Data for Democracy policy head Renée DiResta answers disinformation questions on Too Embarrassed to Ask," 14 July 2018 The study’s authors say the two groups utilize similar rhetoric and symbols, historical references, and memes – an attempt to extinguish middle ground and recruit new members to their cause by offering a sense of identity. Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor, "The vicious circle of Islamist terrorism and far-right extremism," 6 July 2018 His renewed anti-immigrant rhetoric in recent days, adding to the mood of populist fervor south of the border, is playing into AMLO’s hands. Eric Martin, Bloomberg.com, "Mexico’s Populist Tide Pushes AMLO Toward a Blowout Victory," 27 June 2018 As the numbers show, there is a stark disconnect between Trump's border rhetoric and the reality of life in border cities like Brownsville. Author: Manny Fernandez, Linda Qiu, Anchorage Daily News, "Backed up by data, a border city asks Trump: What border crisis?," 24 June 2018 Ruth has to play the villainous Zoya The Destroyer because, with her mousy brown waves and feminist rhetoric, no decision-maker in 1980s Los Angeles wants to see her as a lead. refinery29.com, "Glow Season 2 Review: There’s No Sophomore Slump Here," 21 June 2018

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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Statistics for rhetoric

Last Updated

21 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for rhetoric

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

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More Definitions for rhetoric



English Language Learners Definition of rhetoric

: 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

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a complex dispute or argument

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