So, a colleague of mine uses this term way too much but i really don't know whether he's using it in the right context. An example:

"So, i have 3 cars in the garage and they take up way too much space. Should i sell one off?...... Never mind that rhetorical question, i was just showing off."

...What? Isn't rhetoric supposed to mean something meant to persuade the audience?

According to my deduction, he uses it while asking a question that need not be answered. so what IS the correct meaning of the word?

  • 1
    See rhetorical question – Cascabel May 31 '17 at 4:26
  • Possible duplicate of Is this an example of rhetoric? – Edwin Ashworth May 31 '17 at 6:13
  • The term 'Indian summer' is used to describe unseasonably warm and settled weather in various places around the world. It is a fixed phrase, now rarely associated in people's mental processing with the Native Americans for whom it is named. Single words develop different // more/less specific senses, and collocations / compounds perhaps more so. – Edwin Ashworth May 31 '17 at 6:24
  • @EdwinAshworth - OP doesn't want to know how to use the term rhetoric, but rhetorical question. – aparente001 May 31 '17 at 23:42
  • @aparente001 I don't accept that. If it were true, the question would be off-topic anyway, because no research is given. If research were added I don't see how the question as you redefine it would need further answers, though doubtless 'rhetorical question' has been addressed here in a duplicate. I've rolled back because I firmly believe that OP is mistakenly conflating 'rhetorical' in its primary sense with the term 'rhetorical question', not appreciating that the latter is a lexeme. This was true of the duplicate also. Whoever voted to re-open is not thinking this through. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 1 '17 at 0:02

The term rhetoric is generally used with a negative connotation, often in political contexts:.

(formal, often disapproving) speech or writing that is intended to influence people, but that is not completely honest or sincere:

  • the rhetoric of political slogans

  • As empty rhetoric

  • His speech was dismissed as mere rhetoric by the opposition.

(formal) the skill of using language in speech or writing in a special way that influences or entertains people


You colleague is actually making a rhetorical question:

  • a question asked solely to produce an effect or to make an assertion and not to elicit a reply, as “What is so rare as a day in June?”.


  • Rhetoric comes from the Greek meaning "speaker" and is used for the art of persuasive speaking or writing. When people listened eagerly to long speeches and studied them in school, rhetoric was generally used positively; now it is often a negative term, implying artfulness over real content. If someone gives a clever speech but doesn't really address the problem, you might say, "That's just a lot of rhetoric."


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  • So, does OP's colleague use the term correctly? I'd like to know, too. – aparente001 May 31 '17 at 23:43
  • 1
    @aparente001 - yes, they do. – user66974 Jun 1 '17 at 4:14

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