An ad hominem argument is typically, according to Wikipedia, "a rhetorical strategy where the speaker attacks the character, motive, or some other attribute of the person making an argument rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself." It is in the name that this type of argument is an attack on a person.

What if the entity being attacked is not a person? Perhaps it's a legal entity like a business (and the 'argument' being made is about the quality of their offerings if you want to be pedantic). "The services offered by X are bad because their reviews are bad and they were fined recently for breaking a bunch of regulations." Or "don't trust Y, recall that Y used to be called Z but they rebranded to Y because their reputation was so bad." I'd give a real life example of the latter, but that might be a little... meta.

Does the term ad hominem still apply? Is there a better alternative?

  • 1
    There are several terms for specific subtypes of ad hominem arguments on Wikipedia most of which don't refer to a man or a human being. I can't find any source saying ad hominem only applies to humans, or the opposite, but using a more specific term is a good idea.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 29, 2021 at 11:45
  • 1
    'Guilt by association' is probably broadened enough to be applied to entities other than individual humans. Even, metaphorically, agencies (like flu) lacking any quintessential involvement with sentience. Nov 29, 2021 at 12:42
  • 4
    'ad hominem' still applies, it's just a metaphor. Just like 'ad baculum' doesn't mean you are literally hitting someone with a stick. Of course, you can use the association with 'man' to make a witticism, but it'll be a groaner.
    – Mitch
    Nov 29, 2021 at 13:55
  • Not every personal attack is an "ad hominem". It's only "ad hominem" if it's used instead of a genuine argument.
    – Rosie F
    Jun 2, 2022 at 6:33

1 Answer 1


The commenters have been kind to point out that the term 'ad hominem' is not incorrect in this context. But there are subtypes of ad hominem with their own names that avoid the association with 'man.' The examples in the question seem to me like cases of poisoning the well.

And if you happen to be American corporations are people in your country /shrug

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.