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 Because the presence of unregulated political rhetoric is a feature of a free and open society. David Harsanyi, National Review, "Nancy Pelosi Is Already Attacking the Legitimacy of the 2020 Election," 20 Nov. 2019 However, Nunes was careful in his request to avoid any of the inflammatory rhetoric that came ahead of it. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Republicans seethe while suggesting impeachment-inquiry witnesses," 9 Nov. 2019 But with so much at stake in this election, this kind of rhetoric was inevitable. Luke Mcgee, CNN, "Boris Johnson compared Jeremy Corbyn to Stalin and it shows how nasty British politics has become," 6 Nov. 2019 Formally getting out of the Paris agreement is bad, but at this point after years of rhetoric is more symbolic than anything, said Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb. Fox News, "Trump can begin steps to pull US out of Paris climate deal," 4 Nov. 2019 Formally getting out of the Paris agreement is bad, but at this point after years of rhetoric is more symbolic than anything, said Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb. Seth Borenstein, USA TODAY, "Trump can begin steps to pull US out of Paris climate deal," 4 Nov. 2019 Absent from Williams’s memoir is any critical analysis of texts written by White or even by major figures such as Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Angela Davis, or Malcolm X. This omission might be read as a failure of research or of rhetoric. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "A Simplistic View of a Mixed-ish America," 26 Oct. 2019 The survey’s finding is significant because some of the harshest rhetoric ahead of the election centered on religious issues. Ben Sales, sun-sentinel.com, "Most Israelis want Orthodox parties out of government, survey says," 26 Sep. 2019 The demand was more in the nature of rhetoric deployed occasionally to drum up electoral support than a steadfast ideological position informing the party’s political action. Riyaz Wani, Quartz India, "Farooq Abdullah once defended India amid global backlash on Kashmir. Now, he has to defend himself," 19 Sep. 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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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

25 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Rhetoric.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rhetoric?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=r&file=rhetor03. Accessed 5 December 2019.

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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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