A Word A Day : Rhetorical

Sunday, 16th March 2008 : Today's Word is ...


( Adjective )

Pronunciation : ri-táw-rik'l


1. relating to the skill of using language effectively and persuasively

2. relating to or using language that is elaborate or fine-sounding but insincere

3. characterized by overelaborate or bombastic speech

4. emphasizing style at the expense of thought


The word is often used in a pejorative sense to describe speaking or writing that is skillfully executed but insincere or devoid of meaning. A political candidate's speech that was long on drama and promises but short on genuine substance might be dismissed as mere rhetoric.


Origin unknown


bombastic, pompous, pretentious, periphrastic, voluble, showy, flashy, declamatory, theatrical, contrived, effusive, high-flown, highfalutin, oratorical, verbal, linguistic, stylistic, grandiloquent, magniloquent


Grandiloquent means lofty in style, pompous or bombastic.

Magniloquent means lofty and extravagant in speech.


concise, inarticulate, tongue-tied, humble, quiet, reserved, restrained, subtle, understated

Contextual Examples:

• He delivered a speech punctuated by rhetorical pauses.

• If I am rhetorical it is because Stroeve was rhetorical.

• He leaned back cautiously, for the chair on which he sat had a ricketty leg, and it was disconcerting when a rhetorical flourish was interrupted by a sudden fall to the floor.

Related Words:

rhetoric : Noun

rhetorically : Adverb

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