syllogism

noun

syl·​lo·​gism ˈsi-lə-ˌji-zəm How to pronounce syllogism (audio)
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
syllogistic adjective
syllogistically adverb

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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 The syllogism works only with two premises and a conclusion. The Lost Women Of Science Initiative, Scientific American, 30 Nov. 2023 The ability to count indefinitely beyond fingers or body parts; to read, write, store, and learn ideas through text; the tendency to reason abstractly with syllogisms and enthymemes and approximations of formal logic – all were tools for thinking that were culturally created and then transmitted. Michael Muthukrishna, Fortune, 31 Oct. 2023 Realizing Santa wasn't real made the syllogism obvious. Phil Plait, Discover Magazine, 31 Dec. 2010 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 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'syllogism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

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Cite this Entry

“Syllogism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/syllogism. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

syllogism

noun
syl·​lo·​gism ˈsil-ə-ˌjiz-əm How to pronounce syllogism (audio)
: a brief form for stating an argument that consists of two statements and a conclusion that must be true if these two statements are true
syllogistic adjective

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