a form of rhetoric

oratory, eloquence, command of language, way with words

empty rhetoric

bombast, turgidity, grandiloquence, magniloquence, pomposity, extravagant language, purple prose; wordiness, verbosity, prolixity; informal hot air; rare fustian
Rhetoric = (1) the art of using language persuasively; the rules that help one achieve eloquence; (2) the persuasive use of language; (3) a treatise on persuasive language; (4) prose composition as a school subject. These are the main senses outlined in the Oxford English Dictionary. There should probably be added a new sense, related to but distinct from the first sense: (5) the bombastic or disingenuous use of language to manipulate people.
Older books defined rhetoric in line with sense 1:
• "Rhetoric is the Art of speaking suitably upon any Subject." (John Kirkby, A New English Grammar; 1746.)
• "Rhetoric is the art of adapting discourse, in harmony with its subject and occasion, to the requirements of a reader or hearer." (John F. Genung, The Working Principles of Rhetoric; 1902.)
But the slippage toward the pejorative sense 5 began early. In "Some Fruits of Solitude" (1693), William Penn suggested its iniquitous uses: "There is a Truth and Beauty in Rhetorick; but it oftener serves ill Turns than good ones." (Charles W. Eliot, ed., Harvard Classics; 1909.) By the twentieth century, some writers with a classical bent were trying hard to reclaim the word — e.g.: "No one who reads [ancient authors] can hold the puerile notions of rhetoric that prevail in our generation. The ancients would have made short work of the cult of the anti-social that lies behind the cult of mystification and the modern hatred of rhetoric. All the great literary ages have exalted the study of rhetoric." (Van Wyck Brooks, Opinions of Oliver Allston; 1941.) But T. S. Eliot probably had it right when he acknowledged that the word is essentially ambiguous today — generally pejorative but with flashes of a favorable sense: "The word [rhetoric] simply cannot be used as synonymous with bad writing. The meanings which it has been obliged to shoulder have been mostly opprobrious; but if a precise meaning can be found for it this meaning may occasionally represent a virtue." (" ‘Rhetoric’ and Poetic Drama", in The Sacred Wood, 7th ed.; 1950.) — BG

Thesaurus of popular words. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Rhetoric — Rhet o*ric, n. [F. rh[ e]torique, L. rhetorica, Gr. ???? (sc. ???), fr. ??? rhetorical, oratorical, fr. ??? orator, rhetorician; perhaps akin to E. word; cf. ??? to say.] 1. The art of composition; especially, elegant composition in prose. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • rhetoric — ► NOUN 1) the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing. 2) language with a persuasive or impressive effect, but often lacking sincerity or meaningful content. ORIGIN from Greek rh torik tekhn art of rhetoric …   English terms dictionary

  • rhetoric — I (insincere language) noun affectation, artificial eloquence, bombastic speech, declamation, euphuism, grandiloquence, grandiosity, inflated language, loftiness, magniloquence, pomposity, pompous speech, pompousness, pretension, pretentiousness… …   Law dictionary

  • rhetoric — (n.) c.1300, from O.Fr. rethorique, from L. rhetorice, from Gk. rhetorike techne art of an orator, from rhetor (gen. rhetoros) orator, related to rhema word, lit. that which is spoken, from PIE *wre tor , from root *were to speak (Cf. O.E …   Etymology dictionary

  • rhetoric — [n] wordiness; long speech address, balderdash*, big talk*, bombast, composition, discourse, elocution, eloquence, flowery language, fustian, grandiloquence, hot air*, hyperbole, magniloquence, oration, oratory, pomposity, rant, verbosity;… …   New thesaurus

  • rhetoric — [ret′ər ik] n. [ME rethorike < OFr or L: OFr rethorique < L rhetorica < Gr rhētorikē (technē), rhetorical (art) < rhētōr, orator: see RHETOR] 1. a) the art of using words effectively in speaking or writing; esp., now, the art of prose …   English World dictionary

  • Rhetoric — This article is about the art of rhetoric in general. For the work by Aristotle, see Rhetoric (Aristotle). Painting depicting a lecture in a knight academy, painted by Pieter Isaacsz or Reinhold Timm for Rosenborg Castle as part of a series of… …   Wikipedia

  • rhetoric — /ret euhr ik/, n. 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… …   Universalium

  • rhetoric — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ empty, mere ▪ Her speech was just empty rhetoric. ▪ fiery, inflammatory, powerful, radical ▪ …   Collocations dictionary

  • rhetoric — rhet|o|ric [ retərık ] noun uncount * a style of speaking or writing that is intended to influence people: angry nationalist rhetoric anti American rhetoric the rhetoric of freedom/reform/law and order a. a style of speaking or writing that is… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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