syl·​lo·​gism | \ ˈsi-lə-ˌji-zəm How to pronounce syllogism (audio) \

Definition of syllogism

1 : a deductive scheme of a formal argument consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion (as in "every virtue is laudable; kindness is a virtue; therefore kindness is laudable")
2 : a subtle, specious, or crafty argument
3 : deductive reasoning

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Other Words from syllogism

syllogistic \ ˌsi-​lə-​ˈji-​stik How to pronounce syllogism (audio) \ adjective
syllogistically \ ˌsi-​lə-​ˈji-​sti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce syllogism (audio) \ adverb

Did You Know?

For those trained in formal argument, the syllogism is a classical form of deduction. One example is the inference that "kindness is praiseworthy" from the premises "every virtue is praiseworthy" and "kindness is a virtue." "Syllogism" came to English through Anglo-French from Latin syllogismus, which in turn can be traced back through Greek to the verb syllogizesthai, meaning "to infer." In Greek logizesthai means "to calculate" and derives from logos, meaning "word" or "reckoning." "Syl-" comes from syn-, meaning "with" or "together."

Examples of syllogism in a Sentence

An example of a syllogism is: “All men are human; all humans are mortal; therefore all men are mortal.”
Recent Examples on the Web Twitter users often accept a flawed syllogism by using a conclusion as one of the premises – namely, that the platform spreads truthful information. Aaron Duncan, The Conversation, "Rumors of Chris Pratt’s being a ‘MAGA Bro’ show how Twitter’s trending function can go haywire," 29 Oct. 2020 Chairman Xi will undoubtedly want to prevent this syllogism from presenting itself to the minds of Chinese Christians. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "China’s Communist Christ," 1 Oct. 2020 The syllogism runs something like this: Jews, regardless of their American citizenship, owe loyalty to Israel. Los Angeles Times, "Trump’s remarks about ‘disloyal’ Jews highlight the tribalism of his politics," 23 Aug. 2019 For Whom the Bell Tolls illustrate this trite syllogism. David Pryce-jones, National Review, "The Cold War of Words," 22 Aug. 2019 But the motion, that extraordinary charisma communicated not through image or syllogism but through rhythm alone, remains as permanent as a fingerprint. Thomas Chatterton Williams, New York Times, "Adrian Piper’s Show at MoMA is the Largest Ever for a Living Artist. Why Hasn’t She Seen It?," 27 June 2018 Shapiro tries to appeal to both the pro-Trump and the anti-Trump factions of the Republican base, spitting out indignant syllogisms in a rapid nasal delivery that sounds like a podcast played at double speed. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, "How Social-Media Trolls Turned U.C. Berkeley Into a Free-Speech Circus," 23 May 2016 The Holocaust was the result of a hideous syllogism: if Germany were to expand into the East, where millions of Jews lived, those Jews would have to vanish, because Germans could not coexist with them. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "How American Racism Influenced Hitler," 23 Apr. 2018 That bassline -- quietly funky, resolving like a syllogism -- served as the bedrock for dozens of hip-hop, R&B, and pop tracks in the decades to follow, some of which have become just as iconic as their source. Brad Shoup, Billboard, "A History of Dennis Edwards' 'Don't Look Any Further' Through the Countless Songs That Borrow From It," 8 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'syllogism.' 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 syllogism

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for syllogism

Middle English silogisme, from Anglo-French sillogisme, from Latin syllogismus, from Greek syllogismos, from syllogizesthai to syllogize, from syn- + logizesthai to calculate, from logos reckoning, word — more at legend

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

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Cite this Entry

“Syllogism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for syllogism



English Language Learners Definition of syllogism

formal : a formal argument in logic that is formed by two statements and a conclusion which must be true if the two statements are true

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More from Merriam-Webster on syllogism

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for syllogism

Britannica English: Translation of syllogism for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about syllogism

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