According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a diatribe is defined as a forceful and bitter verbal attack against someone or something. I had previously understood it to mean something more along the lines of drawn out, longer than it needs to be, impassioned persuasion.

For example, in a friendly letter, My [diatribe] begins here.

Any alternatives?

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    To clarify, are you looking for an alternative (but less harsh) way of saying "forceful and bitter verbal attack"? Or an alternative way of saying "impassioned, too long persuasion"? There are answers for both interpretations, it seems.
    – Jonik
    Aug 31, 2010 at 18:39
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    For "(not so harsh) verbal attack", I'd go with critique; and for "lengthy impassioned persuasion" rant is definitely what you want.
    – Jonik
    Aug 31, 2010 at 18:42

13 Answers 13


Personally, I would use either "rant" if I am complaining about something but not attacking the recipient, or "rambling" if I'm just taking way too many words to say something. The point of a friendly letter is to be friendly. Ramblings tend to get skimmed over if the reader thinks it is not worth the effort to read so much text. If you are truly writing a friendly letter try to be concise while also being respectful of the reader. There really shouldn't be diatribes, rants, or ramblings in a friendly letter unless you know the other party very well.


rant? screed? panegyric?

  • Screed is good (as Gordon Gecko almost said). It also has a lovely literal meaning: a long flat bar of wood or metal, used for flattening cement/concrete.
    – PLL
    Dec 27, 2010 at 14:33

"Harangue" might work.

In Merriam-Webster, "diatribe" is listed as a synonym and "lecture" as a definition, so it seems to be defined pretty broadly. I understand it to be more long-winded and emotional than a lecture, but not as strong as the OED's definition of "diatribe."

I'm not totally sure about the persuasive bit, though. Maybe "pitch" would work?


"Litany" or "polemic" would work.

  • "Litany" and "polemic" have completely different meanings.
    – delete
    Aug 27, 2010 at 23:31
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    @Shinto: The answer doesn't claim that they are synonyms, only that they are both (vaguely) similar in usage to "diatribe", and not as harsh. Aug 30, 2010 at 2:10
  • @ShreevatsaR: try looking these two words up in a dictionary.
    – delete
    Aug 30, 2010 at 2:13
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    @Shinto: I did not claim the answer is correct; I was only pointing out that their having different meanings is irrelevant. :-) Aug 30, 2010 at 2:31

What about critique?


I like philippic, from Demosthenes' speeches against Philip the Great.


A digression can be used if you are off-topic. A lecture if you are very thorough. A speech if it is well-rehearsed and given frequently. If I am passionate, I may get on my soap box.


"Pontification" may work in some situations. One of my favorite words, actually ;)

  • I was going to suggest Pontificate as well Jul 8, 2011 at 21:02

Disquisition - A long or elaborate essay or discussion on a particular subject



Perhaps discourse?

From the first Dictionary.com definition:

Communication of thought by words; talk; conversation: earnest and intelligent discourse.


How about "rambling speech" or "rambling argument"?


Does this work for you, ponderous discourse?



1 : of very great weight

2 : unwieldy or clumsy because of weight and size

Discourse 1 : verbal interchange of ideas; especially in conversation

2 (a) formal, orderly and usually extended expression of thought on a subject, (b) connected speech or writing, (c) a linguistic unit (such as a conversation or a story) larger than a sentence

3 a mode of organizing knowledge, ideas, or experience that is rooted in language and its concrete contexts (such as history or institutions) critical discourse

4 archaic, the capacity of orderly thought or procedure : rationality


My googling this very question brought me here, and I have really enjoyed reading this thread. We take our words so seriously, don’t we? I love that for us :)

That said, I think I’ve rested on either “monologue” or “soliloquy” for my intended use—which I have to confirm whether it will work. Pardon me for not having provided the proper definitions for everyone (I believe soliloquy is spoken aloud to oneself before an audience, and specifically in a theatre setting…?) BUT if used in jest, and my audience catches the intended slug, it could work? Hmm.

I think intention for the message is a massive variable that trumps all when we consider word choice moments such as this—my intentions for using an eloquent word for “rambling speech” is to artfully poke fun at myself for yet another rambling written speech I’ve managed to give—one that nobody asked for :-D the long-winded comment I posted does not fall under diatribe, because this comment happens to be a sentimental comment. It’s just a big BLABLABLA of my feelings

However, when it comes to the age-old showing vs. telling dilemma, sometimes “rambling speech” is a bit too telling for my preference. I think an eloquent word is the most perfect way to throw a slug at an eloquent person, if I do say so myself.

** sips champagne, pinky up **

Thanks everyone. New here, might stick around for more word wars <3

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