[ ri-tawr-ik-lee, -tor- ]


  1. in a way that uses language for style or effect:

    These essays discuss how the term participatory has been deployed rhetorically by a range of institutions.

  2. not expecting an answer, either because the answer is unknowable or because it is obvious:

    I am not asking the question rhetorically or snidely.

  3. in way that uses language in an exaggerated way:

    The realities of the global marketplace are quite apparent; they don't need to be rhetorically beaten to death.

  4. in a way that uses specialized literary language, such as figures of speech:

    Some of the entries are concise, but most of them are verbally and rhetorically elaborate.

  5. in a way that uses language particularly effectively:

    Her testimony was rhetorically strong, but scientifically weak.

  6. using words, especially in the absence of action:

    He fails to demonstrate the validity of his claims, but merely asserts them rhetorically.

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Other Words From

  • non·rhe·tor·i·cal·ly adverb
  • un·rhe·tor·i·cal·ly adverb

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Word History and Origins

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Example Sentences

You can make a case for a broad and diversified education curriculum and against banning books without rhetorically relegating parents to bystanders in the process.

“We have a game plan in Afghanistan that I think justifies the expenditures of blood and treasure that’s about to come,” Graham also said in 2009, prompting Carlson to respond rhetorically.

The policy priorities are malleable and flexible, so long as the politician rhetorically punches the right people.

From Time

Lerman explained that consumers more and more expect digital service in response to their questions — “who wants to call a 1-800 number,” he asked rhetorically — which is forcing companies to rethink the way they handle customer inquiries.

Can be really good or really bad whichever is more rhetorically useful.

I say rhetorically because we were all supposed to know that the answer was yes.

But some presidents grow stronger rhetorically in the job as the gravitas of the office lends depth to their words.

And most Ukrainian leaders of all stripes and ethnicities remain monumentally corrupt and rhetorically dishonest.

Rhetorically, the president is back in his comfort zone—campaigning and using catchy slogans to rally his Democratic base.

As recently as the 1980s, the cover of a Paris news weekly asked rhetorically, “Are the French dirty?”

He was rhetorically holding forth; the other two were earnest listeners—his theme, the battle of Vittoria.

He grants that he is rude in speech—not rhetorically gifted or trained—a plain, blunt man who speaks right on.

The interrogative form of his statement is rhetorically the strongest possible affirmation.

The interest of the human race, though it may be disguised rhetorically, is the interest that everybody finds in gossip.

I don't speak rhetorically or carelessly; I speak as I ought to speak here—with mathematical precision.





rhetoricalrhetorical question