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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for rhetorical
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The Menexenus has more the character of a rhetorical exercise than any other of the Platonic works.

    Menexenus Plato
  • For I do not imagine that I have any rhetorical art of my own.

    Phaedrus Plato
  • All of them are rhetorical and poetical rather than dialectical, but glimpses of truth appear in them.

    Symposium Plato
  • Hardy was desperately in earnest, but not so much so as to be careless of rhetorical effect.

    Audrey Craven May Sinclair
  • What Inflection is placed on the rhetorical questions in par.

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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