Rhetoric, as a term, has been frequently misunderstood and misused. However, it plays a significant role in the way we communicate in our daily lives as well as in professional settings. In this article, we will explore the multifaceted meaning of rhetoric in communication by examining its various aspects, and how understanding the concept can help you become a more effective communicator.

The Ancient Origins of Rhetoric


The term “rhetoric” can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it was first introduced by philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, and Isocrates. They considered rhetoric to be the art of persuasion - an essential skill for politicians, public speakers, and philosophers. Aristotle, in his book called Rhetoric), defined it as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.”

In this context, the meaning of rhetoric was focused on the persuasive aspects of communication, particularly in the realm of oratory and political discourse. However, as the study of rhetoric evolved over centuries, its meaning broadened to encompass more aspects of the communicative process.

The Components of Rhetoric

Today, rhetoric is understood to be a multifaceted field of study that involves analyzing and creating messages using various means and tools. It is a combination of three key components - ethos, pathos, and logos - which work together to create an effective rhetorical appeal.

  1. Ethos refers to the credibility and character of the speaker or writer. To persuade an audience, a communicator must establish trust and authority by demonstrating expertise, experience, and ethical values.

  2. Pathos is the emotional appeal of the message. By tapping into the emotions and values of the audience, a communicator can create a powerful connection that enhances the persuasive impact of the message.

  3. Logos represents the logical and rational aspects of the communication. A strong argument is built upon sound reasoning, evidence, and a clear structure that leads the audience to the desired conclusion.

Understanding and effectively utilizing these three components is essential for crafting compelling and persuasive messages in various contexts. To learn more about the art of persuasion, check out our article on rhetoric and its applications.

Rhetoric in Everyday Communication

The meaning of rhetoric in communication goes beyond the ancient Greek philosophers and their focus on persuasion. In modern communication, rhetoric is about crafting and interpreting messages in various contexts, whether it be verbal or written, formal or informal, professional or personal.

For example, consider job interviews. The interviewer will assess the credibility of the interviewee (ethos) based on their resume and professional demeanor, while the interviewee will try to make an emotional connection (pathos) by discussing their passion for the job or the company. The interviewer will also evaluate the logical reasoning (logos) of the interviewee based on how well they articulate their qualifications for the job and how they address specific questions.

Another example can be found in advertising, where corporations use rhetoric to persuade consumers to purchase their products. Advertisements often tap into consumers’ emotions (pathos) by evoking feelings of happiness, nostalgia, or even fear. They also establish credibility (ethos) by showcasing brand reputation and expertise, while providing logical reasons (logos) for why their product is the best choice.

The Power of Rhetoric in Communication

The multifaceted meaning of rhetoric becomes apparent when we consider the power it has in shaping our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. For instance, consider the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. Reverend King masterfully employed all three components of rhetoric to create a compelling message that resonated with his audience and left a lasting impact on the course of history. To explore more about the power of rhetoric in shaping public opinion, read our article on rhetoric and public opinion.

By understanding the meaning of rhetoric and its role in communication, we can become more effective communicators in every aspect of our lives. We can also be better equipped to critically evaluate the messages we receive from others, allowing us to make more informed decisions and navigate our world more wisely. To further improve your communication skills, check out our article on how philosophy improves your communication skills.

In conclusion, the meaning of rhetoric in communication is multifaceted, encompassing persuasion, the art of crafting messages, and the analysis of different forms of communication. By understanding and applying the principles of rhetoric, we can become more effective communicators and better understand the world around us.


Leave a comment