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From Middle English rethorycal, rethoricalle, rethorycall, from rethorik, rhetoric (noun) or Latin rēthoricus, rhētoricus, from Ancient Greek ῥητορικός (rhētorikós, concerning public speaking).


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ɹɪˈtɒɹ.ɪ.kəl/, /ɹəˈtɒɹ.ɪ.kəl/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ɹɪˈtɔɹɪkəl/, /ɹəˈtɔɹɪkəl/
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rhetorical (not comparable)

  1. Part of or similar to rhetoric, the use of language as a means to persuade.
    A rhetorical question is one used merely to make a point, with no response expected.
  2. Not earnest, or presented only for the purpose of an argument.
    • 2019 September 6, Jordan Weissman, “How Not to Fight Anti-Semitism”, in Slate[1]:
      Unfortunately, she has used the attack as a launch pad for a bizarre and undercooked exercise in rhetorical bothsidesism, in which she argues that American Jews should be just as worried about college students who overzealously criticize Israel as they are about the aspiring Einsatzgruppen who shoot up shuls.

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rhetorical (plural rhetoricals)

  1. (education, dated) A study or exercise in rhetoric.