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

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, specifically an argument consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion. 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 to the Greek 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, 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, 1 Oct. 2020 The syllogism runs something like this: Jews, regardless of their American citizenship, owe loyalty to Israel. Los Angeles Times, 23 Aug. 2019 For Whom the Bell Tolls illustrate this trite syllogism. David Pryce-jones, National Review, 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, 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, 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, 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, 8 Feb. 2018 See More

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.

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

Learn More About syllogism

Time Traveler for syllogism

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About syllogism

Dictionary Entries Near syllogism




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for syllogism

Cite this Entry

“Syllogism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!