Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the definition of rhetoric?

The definition of rhetoric is the art of verbal communication and persuasion, both written and spoken.


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Last Updated May 25, 2023.

Rhetoric refers to the rules governing the use of language in written or spoken forms. By understanding rhetoric, a writer can use language effectively, persuasively, and eloquently. Rhetoric is less focused on the specific mechanics of language, like grammar and sentence construction, and more broadly concerned with the theory and principles of how written texts and speeches are composed. 


The word rhetoric comes from the Greek rhētorike tekhnē, meaning “the art of an orator,” from rhētōr, meaning “orator.”


Roman philosopher Cicero stated that there are five tenets of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. 

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