What word or phrase does your mother always say?


[ri-tawr-i-kuh l, -tor-] /rɪˈtɔr ɪ kəl, -ˈtɒr-/
used for, belonging to, or concerned with mere style or effect.
marked by or tending to use exaggerated language or bombast.
of, relating to, or concerned with rhetoric, or the effective use of language.
Origin of rhetorical
1470-80; < Latin rhētoric(us) (< Greek rhētorikós) + -al1
Related forms
rhetorically, adverb
rhetoricalness, noun
nonrhetorical, adjective
nonrhetorically, adverb
unrhetorical, adjective
unrhetorically, adverb
1. verbal, stylistic, oratorical. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for rhetorical
  • Again, declaring that his speech is plain, he disclaimed any rhetorical show of elegance.
  • Any one of these and several other rhetorical flourishes would have dominated and defined a lesser speech.
  • The rhetorical magic of the speech-what made it extraordinary-was that it was, at once, both unequivocal and healing.
  • It was the kind of thing that made you wonder how debates had ever occurred without having that handy rhetorical hammer.
  • Of course, there's rhetorical danger in lumping so many types of organization under such an inflammatory heading.
  • However, both positions need each other, as a rhetorical enemy.
  • My comment was rhetorical to illuminate the scientific difficulty to nail it all down absolutely.
  • These are not rhetorical questions, even though they are probably unanswerable by you.
  • Please bear in mind though that they are already using facts to fight people using rhetorical tricks and often losing.
  • C-Span isn't kind to the rhetorical skill of members of either party.
British Dictionary definitions for rhetorical


concerned with effect or style rather than content or meaning; bombastic
of or relating to rhetoric or oratory
Derived Forms
rhetorically, adverb
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 rhetorical

mid-15c., "eloquent," from Latin rhetoricus, from Greek rhetorikos "oratorical, rhetorical; skilled in speaking," from rhetor "orator" (see rhetoric). Meaning "pertaining to rhetoric" is from 1520s. Rhetorical question is from 1670s. Related: Rhetorically.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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