See more synonyms for rhetoric on Thesaurus.com
  1. (in writing or speech) the undue use of exaggeration or display; bombast.
  2. the art or science of all specialized literary uses of language in prose or verse, including the figures of speech.
  3. the study of the effective use of language.
  4. the ability to use language effectively.
  5. the art of prose in general as opposed to verse.
  6. the art of making persuasive speeches; oratory.
  7. (in classical oratory) the art of influencing the thought and conduct of an audience.
  8. (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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for rhetoric

Contemporary Examples of rhetoric

Historical Examples of rhetoric

  • But the art, as far as there is an art, of rhetoric does not lie in the direction of Lysias or Thrasymachus.

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

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

  • This is not an easy task, and this, if there be such an art, is the art of rhetoric.

  • But I still want to know where and how the true art of rhetoric and persuasion is to be acquired.

British Dictionary definitions for rhetoric


  1. the study of the technique of using language effectively
  2. the art of using speech to persuade, influence, or please; oratory
  3. excessive use of ornamentation and contrivance in spoken or written discourse; bombast
  4. speech or discourse that pretends to significance but lacks true meaningall the politician says is mere rhetoric

Word Origin for rhetoric

C14: via Latin from Greek rhētorikē (tekhnē) (the art of) rhetoric, from rhētōr rhetor
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 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