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 Through partnerships with Google as well as the Anti-Defamation League, the British firm’s goal is to dissuade users from pursuing conspiracies and violent rhetoric by luring them with advertisements to other sites. Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times, "Effort to stem online extremism accidentally pushed people toward an anarchist," 30 Mar. 2021 Trump typically used his social platforms to spread falsehoods and violent rhetoric about everything from the coronavirus pandemic to what was happening on the US-Mexico border to anti-racist protest movements. Erin Corbett, refinery29.com, "We’re Finally Able To Ignore Trump & It’s Blissful," 29 Mar. 2021 The violence has surged amid racist rhetoric during the coronavirus pandemic -- some popularized by ex-President Donald Trump. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "Some officials call for hate crime charges in the Atlanta-area spa shootings that left 8 dead," 19 Mar. 2021 Five people died on Jan. 6 when a mob, fueled by the president’s rhetoric invaded the Capitol. Tim Evans, al, "Jon Ryan Schaffer, Indiana heavy metal guitarist, pepper-sprayed Capitol police, feds say," 18 Jan. 2021 Critics have called for Cruz to resign, accusing him of abetting sedition and insurrection, as Cruz has tried to distance himself from the president’s rhetoric and the violence from the mob that stormed the Capitol last week. Elizabeth Thompson, Dallas News, "Ted Cruz’s communications director resigns as fallout from Capitol riot continues," 13 Jan. 2021 At a vigil last month in Birmingham, speakers said incidents of hate against Asian Americans have increased during the coronavirus pandemic because of racist associations and political rhetoric. Mark Inabinett | Minabinett@al.com, al, "Carlton Davis apologizes for derogatory word in tweets," 5 Apr. 2021 This is rhetoric echoed by the International Monetary Fund, an institution long seen as the embodiment of neoliberalism. Washington Post, "Biden and the waning of the ‘neoliberal’ era," 5 Apr. 2021 Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican who served as speaker from 2009 to 2019, said divisive political rhetoric had been building for a decade but had become more dangerous recently. James Barragán, Dallas News, "Texas House Speakers Dade Phelan, Joe Straus call for civility in politics," 28 Jan. 2021

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 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rhetoric.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rhetoric. Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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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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