Word of the Day : October 28, 2012

ad hominem

adjective ad-HAH-muh-nem


1 : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect

2 : marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made

Did You Know?

"Ad hominem" literally means "to the person" in New Latin (Latin as first used in post-medieval texts). In centuries past, this adjective usually modified "argument." An "argument ad hominem" (or "argumentum ad hominem," to use the full New Latin phrase) was a valid method of persuasion by which a person took advantage of his or her opponent's interests or feelings in a debate, instead of just sticking to general principles. The newer sense of "ad hominem," which suggests an attack on an opponent's character instead of his or her argument, appeared only in the last century, but it is the sense more often heard today. The word still refers to putting personal issues above other matters, but perhaps because of its old association with "argument," "ad hominem" has become, in effect, "against the person."


The governor's only response to the criticism of his new policy was to launch an ad hominem attack against those doing the criticizing.

"This democratization of the online media comment world results in both a lot of angry, nasty and downright insulting ad hominem attacks, followed quickly by ad hominem attacks by email commentators on each other that make for salty and entertaining, if not particularly edifying, reading." - From an editorial by Richard Hermann in the Daily Messenger (Canandaigua, New York), August 30, 2012

Test Your Memory

What word completes this sentence from a former Word of the Day piece: "The editorial was an elegant, __________ lament for the golden era of the author's long-ago past"? The answer is ...


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