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[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
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • This able and resolute commander won in this fight the rhetorical but well merited name of "the Rock of Chickamauga."

    Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II John T. Morse
  • For I do not imagine that I have any rhetorical art of my own.

    Phaedrus Plato
  • Father Forbes, after his rhetorical outburst, and been eating.

  • The Menexenus has more the character of a rhetorical exercise than any other of the Platonic works.

    Menexenus Plato
  • "Smile" needs rigorous metrical and rhetorical revision to escape puerility.

    Writings in the United Amateur, 1915-1922 Howard Phillips Lovecraft
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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