Definition of rhetorical in English:



  • 1Relating to or concerned with the art of rhetoric.

    ‘repetition is a common rhetorical device’
    • ‘Such an ambivalence would make for incoherence and would be hard to accept if we had here mere rhetorical devices and style recipes.’
    • ‘This, she shows, is a rhetorical device, with no implication that the dead can actually communicate.’
    • ‘In mentioning the range of the rhetorical lexicon we are not simply talking about lists of tropes and figures.’
    • ‘Once a commentator commits a major rhetorical gaffe or colossal misstatement of fact, it becomes impossible to take them seriously.’
    • ‘It presents an example of Chicana feminist rhetoric and an inroad to this rhetorical tradition.’
    • ‘This is an argument from the field of descriptive linguistics, made for a rhetorical audience of laypeople.’
    • ‘The word dignitas was a Latin rhetorical and political term that indicated either the possession of high political or social rank or the moral qualities associated with it.’
    • ‘A similar rhetorical device is used to make numbers of weapons appear shocking.’
    • ‘It should be made clear that India in this regard is a synecdoche (a term of rhetorical analysis for a part which stands for the whole).’
    • ‘Hamlet as a play is similarly preoccupied by slander, misrepresentation and selves fabricated from the nothings of rhetorical tropes.’
    • ‘Ovid's chiasmus is a rhetorical picture of the lovers being pulled apart.’
    • ‘It is a rhetorical strategy in which scriptural quotations, typologies, or tropes are used for satirical ends.’
    • ‘It can not be guaranteed by either rhetoric or philosophy, by rhetorical pragmatism or foundationalist theory.’
    • ‘That is, the songs' rhetorical strategies paralleled those of epideictic speeches.’
    • ‘In a work of literature Stewart's lies would constitute synecdoche, the rhetorical device in which a part stands for the whole.’
    • ‘Farewells are commonly used rhetorical tools intended to invite the listener/reader into the moment.’
    • ‘That's a nice little rhetorical trick, to pretend that the only possible omnivorous diet must be an unhealthy fast food one.’
    • ‘Yet isn't prosopopeia a rhetorical device that is found, as a matter of course, in all poetry?’
    • ‘At minimum, the seller must establish enough of the attributes of attachment to establish the rhetorical framework for persuasion.’
    • ‘Unlike Goodman, he stopped short of action by private individuals, but this may have been a rhetorical device.’
    stylistic, oratorical, linguistic, verbal
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    1. 1.1Expressed in terms intended to persuade or impress.
      ‘the rhetorical commitment of the government to give priority to primary education’
      • ‘Successive governments have also proclaimed the goal of lifting growth rates, but too often their commitment has been rhetorical only.’
      • ‘As well as being badly written, it is too long, too vague, too pompous, too rhetorical, too unrealistic and too boring.’
      • ‘But one has to be aware of the rhetorical value that these terms are going to have.’
      • ‘Few were willing to make more than a rhetorical commitment to revolutionary activism.’
      • ‘But even a rhetorical commitment to sending back the money was influential, not least in the political development of Frederick Douglass, as we shall see.’
      • ‘The impression is of rhetorical rings being run round Hamerton.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, it may be that Paul's rhetorical strategy can still be persuasive on another level.’
      • ‘The question I think that we're going to ask is, is this a rhetorical commitment or is there something larger here?’
      • ‘A broad rhetorical commitment to this ideal coexisted with stringent restrictions on speech deemed radical or obscene.’
      • ‘Are their preferences driven less by political persuasions and by rhetorical flourishes and more by the economic bottomline?’
      • ‘The bottom line is that the party maintains a rhetorical commitment to small government but tacitly admits that their cause is hopeless.’
      • ‘Imperialism is a term often used as a rhetorical flourish and definitions vary especially in academic discourse and social discussion tracts.’
      • ‘Perhaps in the end, the equal opportunity principle is a matter of rhetorical commitment more than practical credo.’
      • ‘But the president has a rhetorical commitment which is hard to ditch.’
      • ‘With previous Tory leaders, there was at least a rhetorical commitment to a return on the investment through tax cuts.’
      • ‘The article is almost purely rhetorical, with virtually nothing of substance offered in terms of legal arguments.’
      • ‘In the second phase it will be necessary to be practical as well as rhetorical, to persuade as well as instruct.’
      • ‘But not overly strong on our sense of irony, if the rhetorical bombast of this article is anything to go by.’
      • ‘People in developing nations do not need empty rhetorical commitments to alleviating the most extreme manifestations of poverty.’
      • ‘While he has shown a rhetorical commitment to reform, progress on the ground has been glacial.’
      extravagant, grandiloquent, magniloquent, high-flown, high-sounding, sonorous, lofty, orotund, bombastic, grandiose, pompous, pretentious, overblown, overripe, oratorical, turgid, flowery, florid, declamatory, ciceronian
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  • 2(of a question) asked in order to produce an effect or to make a statement rather than to elicit information.

    ‘the general intended his question to be purely rhetorical’
    • ‘Why does Billmon keep asking these rhetorical questions?’
    • ‘She can only be answered with more rhetorical questions.’
    • ‘Kyle didn't offer him the time to answer the rather rhetorical question.’
    • ‘People waffle, ramble and throw rhetorical questions into the ether in their blogs, or even just imply that they might wish for a better way round a certain situation.’
    • ‘But, since the Doctor's question was obviously rhetorical, I'm willing to let it slide.’
    • ‘Mr Henderson's rhetorical question can be easily answered.’
    • ‘Before I even ask a rhetorical question of how you feel about this, it has been such a joy to watch you come out here these past three weeks, and put your heart and soul into it.’
    • ‘I wasn't sure if this was a rhetorical question or not.’
    • ‘Don't worry, these are all rhetorical questions.’
    • ‘This isn't a rhetorical question but one that, again, would help show whether they're applying this rule fairly or arbitrarily.’
    • ‘It was a statement, a rhetorical question, and just by looking at her he was sure that it had made her angry.’
    • ‘I ask these not as rhetorical questions and not as a prelude to an intelligent statement that explains exactly how it ends.’
    • ‘The poem avoids question marks not just because Merwin has eschewed all punctuation, but also because his questions are rhetorical.’
    • ‘That's not a rhetorical question; I'd really like to know.’
    • ‘Adding to the list of rhetorical questions, why did the teenage daughter have such low standards for her boyfriend?’
    • ‘It's in keeping with the rest of this discursive, stimulating book that Kermode leaves the reader with such a provocative, rhetorical question.’
    • ‘It might be a rather petulant rhetorical question, or he might just be trying to keep me on the phone.’
    • ‘I don't regard that as a rhetorical question: there is an answer.’
    • ‘Rather he makes an antagonistic statement, couched as a rhetorical question.’
    • ‘Isn't it ineffective to make statements over and over again in the form of rhetorical questions?’


Late Middle English (first used in the sense ‘eloquently expressed’): via Latin from Greek rhētorikos (from rhētor rhetor) + -al.