View synonyms for rhetorical


[ ri-tawr-i-kuhl, -tor- ]


  1. used for, belonging to, or concerned with mere style or effect, rather than truth, substance, or meaning:

    Her bold and ingenious analogies, although engaging, are purely rhetorical, adding nothing to our understanding of the issue.

    Synonyms: oratorical, stylistic, verbal

  2. marked by or tending to use exaggerated language or bombast:

    Fortunately, the rebel leaders did not have the military power to follow through on their fiery rhetorical eruptions.

  3. of, relating to, or concerned with rhetoric, or the skillful use of language to persuade people:

    She had spent hours with her advisors discussing rhetorical strategy, and now it was time to deliver the speech.

  4. of, relating to, or in reference to a rhetorical question:

    No need to respond—that was rhetorical.


/ rɪˈtɒrɪkəl /


  1. concerned with effect or style rather than content or meaning; bombastic
  2. of or relating to rhetoric or oratory

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Derived Forms

  • rheˈtorically, adverb

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Other Words From

  • rhe·tor·i·cal·ly adverb
  • rhe·tor·i·cal·ness noun
  • non·rhe·tor·i·cal adjective
  • un·rhe·tor·i·cal adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of rhetorical1

First recorded in 1470–80; from Latin rhētoric(us) (from Greek rhētorikós ) + -al 1

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Example Sentences

It can be helpful to explicitly remind those taking a more academic rhetorical stance that, for some, it is not possible to avoid challenging emotions like fear and grief in discussing these events.

From Fortune

The “people have a right to be angry” isn’t the only line of rhetorical defense Fox has employed in the hours after the violence.

From Vox

They are that bubble, the outer rhetorical fortress inside which the movement’s genuine convictions sit protected and undisturbed.

He believed — wrongly, as it turned out — that his fame and rhetorical skills could stir Unionist sentiment among sensible Southerners, despite calls for secession from their newspapers and their intemperate politicians.

Plus, the rhetorical punch is arguably more powerful coming from the people who helped create the problem, like Justin Rosenstein, co-inventor of Facebook’s “like” button, and Tim Kendall, former president of Pinterest.

But politicians abhor a rhetorical vacuum, and they have clamored to fill it.

Its rhetorical potential—if it ever had any—has been thoroughly exhausted.

It was a gracious touch, a rhetorical olive branch to his vanquished foes.

Yet the president uses it for rhetorical vividness—a clarity, as it were.

But this new flavor of rhetorical flimflam is still pretty, well, whack.

The style of Sallust is brilliant, but his art is always apparent; he is clear and lively, but rhetorical.

To every one he said a hearty thing, and sometimes touched his greeting off with a bit of poetry or a rhetorical phrase.

Lynn was a humored, wayward child, and this cold severity did more to quiet him than an hour's rhetorical pleading.

Milton gives us a rhetorical definition in a negative form, which is of equal value, at least, with any authority yet cited.

His clutch on the letter was distinctly inquisitive, and he read out the opening sentences with almost rhetorical effect.


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