Among the vast range of linguistic and communicative techniques, rhetoric is one that has been practiced since ancient times. The term “rhetoric” itself derives from the Greek word “ῥητορικός” (rhētorikós), which means “oratorical”. In this blog post, we delve into what it means to be rhetorical, explore the rhetorically meaning, and examine a few examples to understand the significance of this tactic in different contexts.

Rhetorically Meaning: The Art of Persuasion


In simple terms, rhetoric refers to the art of using language effectively and persuasively to communicate a message or argument. Aristotle, one of the foremost ancient Greek philosophers, defined rhetoric as “the faculty of observing, in any given case, the available means of persuasion” [^1^]. The main purpose of rhetoric is to convince, influence, or motivate an audience through logical, emotional, or ethical appeals. Thus, a rhetorically well-crafted speech or text has the power to change people’s opinions, decisions, and actions. To learn more about the applications of rhetoric, check out our post on The Art of Persuasion: A Dive into Rhetoric and Its Applications.

The Three Rhetorical Appeals: Logos, Pathos, and Ethos

To understand how rhetoric works, it is important to know the three rhetorical appeals, which are the means by which a speaker or writer persuades their audience [^2^]. These are:

  1. Logos - Appeal to logic or reason: Logos involves presenting coherent, well-structured arguments supported by evidence, facts, and rationality. This type of appeal can be seen in scientific papers, research articles, and academic debates.

  2. Pathos - Appeal to emotions: Pathos aims at arousing the emotions, feelings, and passions of the audience to create empathy, sympathy, or fear. Storytelling, anecdotes, and vivid imagery are common tools used to evoke pathos. Advertisements, charity appeals, and political speeches often use this rhetorical appeal.

  3. Ethos - Appeal to credibility or trustworthiness: Ethos focuses on establishing the speaker’s or writer’s authority and credibility, as well as demonstrating their moral character and sincerity. Testimonials, endorsements, and credentials are used to build ethos in a rhetoric context.

A rhetorically effective speech or text should employ a balanced combination of these three appeals to create the desired impact on their audience. For more insights on the relationship between rhetoric and meaning, read our article on The Relationship Between Rhetoric and Meaning.

Rhetorical Devices: The Tools of Rhetoric

Rhetorical devices are the techniques used by speakers and writers to enhance their rhetoric and make their message more persuasive. Some well-known rhetorical devices include:

  • Anaphora: Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or paragraphs. An example is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, where he repeats the phrase “I have a dream” to emphasize his vision for racial equality [^3^].

  • Metaphor: A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unrelated things to explain or illustrate a point. For instance, “Life is a journey, with its ups and downs.”

  • Irony: A rhetorical device in which the intended meaning is opposite to the literal meaning of the words or phrases used. An example is the saying, “The early bird catches the worm,” which is often used ironically to suggest that someone is late or procrastinating.

These devices, among many others, help to enhance the rhetorical power of a speech or text, making it more engaging, impactful, and memorable. To further explore rhetorical techniques, visit our post on Analyzing Rhetorical Techniques in Speeches and Writing.

Rhetoric in Action: A Case Study

To appreciate the power of rhetoric, let us consider the famous Apple “Think Different” ad campaign from 1997. This campaign employed a range of rhetorical techniques to appeal to its audience, including:

  • Pathos: The ad used evocative imagery and personal stories of iconic figures like Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, and Amelia Earhart to inspire a sense of wonder, admiration, and aspiration in their audience.

  • Logos: The claim that Apple’s products were designed for people who think differently was supported by showcasing the innovative features and groundbreaking design aspects of their products.

  • Ethos: By associating their brand with some of the most influential and revolutionary individuals in history, Apple established a sense of credibility and authority for itself as an innovative and forward-thinking company.

The “Think Different” campaign is a great example of how a rhetorically powerful message can captivate an audience, change their perceptions, and ultimately, contribute to a brand’s success.

In conclusion, being rhetorical means employing language effectively and persuasively to communicate a message or argument. By understanding the rhetorically meaning and using the tools of rhetoric, speakers and writers can create impactful and memorable content that has the power to convince, influence, and motivate their audience.


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