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 Such hard-line rhetoric may be partly tactical as the two sides seek to gain advantage early in the negotiations. Ian Wishart, Bloomberg.com, "Brexit Battle Returns With U.K. and EU Sparring Over Trade," 10 May 2020 The turnout was light, but the rhetoric was just as passionate. Luke Money, Los Angeles Times, "Newport Beach reopens shoreline as California continues unlocking Orange County coast," 6 May 2020 Fourth, and fundamentally, the Democratic brand has long involved a refusal to engage in hostile partisan rhetoric, the better to convey a highminded focus on facts and policies. Joseph O’neill, The New York Review of Books, "Brand New Dems?," 29 Apr. 2020 What will the rhetoric be like, with what encouragement from the President, when things get much worse? Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, "What’s the Best, or the Least, That We Can Expect from Trump?," 30 Mar. 2020 The senator has responded by distancing himself from such actions, questioning on several occasions whether the online rhetoric was coming from genuine Sanders supporters. Shane Harris, BostonGlobe.com, "Sanders is briefed by US officials that Russia is trying to help his presidential campaign," 21 Feb. 2020 Although there’s little question that climate change will harm younger generations, there’s considerably more debate about a related concern — that the rhetoric surrounding the issue is equally injurious. Jason Plautz, Washington Post, "The Environmental Burden of Generation Z," 3 Feb. 2020 If Trump’s rhetoric is often predictable, his decisions sometimes appear purely random. Los Angeles Times, "Can’t decipher Trump-speak? Meet Margaret, the computer bot," 7 May 2020 Our topics have ranged from Aristotle’s rhetoric to a ranking of my daughter’s ex-boyfriends. Patrick J. Lyons, New York Times, "Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today," 7 May 2020

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

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rhetoric.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rhetoric. Accessed 31 May. 2020.

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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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