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[ret-er-ik] /ˈrɛt ər ɪk/
(in writing or speech) the undue use of exaggeration or display; bombast.
the art or science of all specialized literary uses of language in prose or verse, including the figures of speech.
the study of the effective use of language.
the ability to use language effectively.
the art of prose in general as opposed to verse.
the art of making persuasive speeches; oratory.
(in classical oratory) the art of influencing the thought and conduct of an audience.
(in older use) a work on rhetoric.
Origin of rhetoric
1300-50; < Latin rhētorica < Greek rhētorikḕ (téchnē) rhetorical (art); replacing Middle English rethorik < Medieval Latin rēthorica, Latin rhētorica, as above Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for rhetoric
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The rhetorician then must be a just man, and rhetoric is a just thing.

    Gorgias Plato
  • We see therefore that even in rhetoric an element of truth is required.

    Phaedrus Plato
  • In the rhetoric of rancour he is a distinguished practitioner.

  • But the art is not that which is taught in the schools of rhetoric; it is nearer akin to philosophy.

    Phaedrus Plato
  • Homer never could have produced the Iliad, had he learned grammar and rhetoric and criticism.

    Cannibals all! George Fitzhugh
British Dictionary definitions for rhetoric


the study of the technique of using language effectively
the art of using speech to persuade, influence, or please; oratory
excessive use of ornamentation and contrivance in spoken or written discourse; bombast
speech or discourse that pretends to significance but lacks true meaning: all the politician says is mere rhetoric
Word Origin
C14: via Latin from Greek rhētorikē (tekhnē) (the art of) rhetoric, from rhētōrrhetor
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for rhetoric

early 14c., from Old French rethorique, from Latin rhetorice, from Greek rhetorike techne "art of an orator," from rhetor (genitive rhetoros) "speaker, orator, teacher of rhetoric," related to rhesis "speech," rhema "word, phrase, verb," literally "that which is spoken," from PIE *wre-tor-, from root *were- "to speak" (cf. Old English word, Latin verbum, Greek eirein "to say;" see verb).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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