Does anyone know the word for a question asked with the intent to injure or insult? I know there is term for it, but I can't find it anywhere. It's driving me crazy.

Example: Are you blind, or just stupid?

Oh, and it's not rhetorical. There is a more specific term.

Edit: It's not sarcasm. There is an actual grammatical term to describe this sort of question.

  • It's a good question - I'm not sure what you call that, an outright insult phrased as a question. Just TBC< you're familiar with rhetorical question right? Maybe that's the phrase you're after.
    – Fattie
    Sep 19, 2014 at 6:14
  • Do you mean a pejorative question?
    – Frank H.
    Sep 19, 2014 at 17:24

4 Answers 4


What you're wanting here is either epiplexis:

Asking questions in order to chide, to express grief, or to inveigh. A kind of rhetorical question.


Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? —Job 3:11

or erotema:

The rhetorical question. To affirm or deny a point strongly by asking it as a question.

Generally, as Melanchthon has noted, the rhetorical question includes an emotional dimension, expressing wonder, indignation, sarcasm, etc.


Just why are you so stupid?

(Both those are from BYU's whipass Silva Rhetoricae)

  • Erotema seems most apropos to this.
    – Barmar
    Sep 19, 2014 at 20:12
  • Epiplexis! Yes! That's the word I was looking for. Rob Short, you are my hero! Sep 20, 2014 at 2:46
  • @Coffeeshopkitty you should accept this answer, to show that the question has been answered!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 20, 2014 at 16:18
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA My apologies. I didn't realize I hadn't. Thank you. Sep 20, 2014 at 16:40

The example you gave is of a loaded question, a suggestive question or a presuppositional question. It also offers the speaker's interlocutor a false dilemma.

(Links are to definitions and explanations of these terms in Wikipedia.)


I don't know that there is a single word to describe this. You might call it a dysphemistic question.



The particular example question might fall under Aporia (though the term doesn't apply strictly to questions, but you could talk about an aporetic question). Quotes from OED:

1589 G. Puttenham Arte Eng. Poesie iii. xix. 189 Aporia, or the Doubtfull. [So] called..because oftentimes we will seeme to cast perils, and make doubt of things when by a plaine manner of speech wee might affirme or deny him.

1656 J. Smith Myst. Rhetorique 150 Aporia is a figure whereby the Speaker sheweth that he doubteth, either where to begin for the multitude of matters, or what to do or say in some strange or ambiguous thing.

However, aporia doesn't have to be used in service of insult.


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