• synonyms


[noun dis-kawrs, -kohrs, dis-kawrs, -kohrs; verb dis-kawrs, -kohrs]
  1. communication of thought by words; talk; conversation: earnest and intelligent discourse.
  2. a formal discussion of a subject in speech or writing, as a dissertation, treatise, sermon, etc.
  3. Linguistics. any unit of connected speech or writing longer than a sentence.
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verb (used without object), dis·coursed, dis·cours·ing.
  1. to communicate thoughts orally; talk; converse.
  2. to treat of a subject formally in speech or writing.
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verb (used with object), dis·coursed, dis·cours·ing.
  1. to utter or give forth (musical sounds).
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Origin of discourse

1325–75; Middle English discours < Medieval Latin discursus (spelling by influence of Middle English cours course), Late Latin: conversation, Latin: a running to and fro, equivalent to discur(rere) to run about (dis- dis-1 + currere to run) + -sus for -tus suffix of v. action
Related formsdis·cours·er, nounpre·dis·course, noun


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for discourses

Historical Examples

  • In his discourses he was neither an extempore preacher, nor did he read.

    A Sketch of the Life of Brig. Gen. Francis Marion

    William Dobein James

  • My discourses were sometimes off-hand and sometimes studied.

    Biography of a Slave

    Charles Thompson

  • We gather up the fragments of His discourses, but neither do they represent Him as He truly was.

  • For I have been exceedingly delighted to hear the discourses which you have just been holding.


    An Imitator of Plato

  • But these discourses are contrary to all proceedings of this nature.

British Dictionary definitions for discourses


noun (ˈdɪskɔːs, dɪsˈkɔːs)
  1. verbal communication; talk; conversation
  2. a formal treatment of a subject in speech or writing, such as a sermon or dissertation
  3. a unit of text used by linguists for the analysis of linguistic phenomena that range over more than one sentence
  4. archaic the ability to reason or the reasoning process
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verb (dɪsˈkɔːs)
  1. (intr; often foll by on or upon) to speak or write (about) formally and extensively
  2. (intr) to hold a discussion
  3. (tr) archaic to give forth (music)
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Derived Formsdiscourser, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Medieval Latin discursus argument, from Latin: a running to and fro, from discurrere to run different ways, from dis- 1 + currere to run
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

Word Origin and History for discourses



late 14c., "process of understanding, reasoning, thought," from French discours, from Latin discursus "a running about," in Late Latin "conversation," from past participle stem of discurrere "run about," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + currere "to run" (see current (adj.)). Sense of "formal speech or writing" is first recorded 1580s.

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1540s, from discourse (n.). Related: Discoursed; discoursing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper