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 That kind of rhetoric from an influential figure with a large following can have devastating effect, said Southers. Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times, 25 Nov. 2022 From the 2012 shooting at the Family Research Council to the 2022 arrest of an armed assassin outside of Brett Kavanaugh’s house, political violence on the left is never seriously treated as the fruits of left-wing rhetoric. The Editors, National Review, 23 Nov. 2022 Over the past few months, patrons had grown increasingly worried about political rhetoric condemning trans people and, by extension, the larger community of people who don't conform to traditional norms of gender and behavior. Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY, 22 Nov. 2022 The allegation remains an unconfirmed rumor, but given Ivanka’s history of pro-life rhetoric, the implication was clear: Hypocrisy is a heritable trait. Hanna Lustig, Glamour, 16 Nov. 2022 Donald Trump had fiery rhetoric on China during his presidency, imposing tariffs that the Biden administration has yet to lift. Josh Boak, ajc, 12 Nov. 2022 North Korea has escalated its weapons tests and fiery rhetoric as the United States and South Korea continue large-scale joint military exercises this week. Jennifer Jett, NBC News, 3 Nov. 2022 The tensions about rhetoric that Churchill noted, however, resonate even now. Jon Meacham, Town & Country, 30 Oct. 2022 Carlos Ranulfo de Melo, a political scientist at Federal University of Minas Gerais, said this likely reflects campaign strategy to avoid fiery rhetoric and instead focus on the improving economy. Mauricio Savarese, BostonGlobe.com, 7 Sep. 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 1 Dec. 2022.

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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