The phrase "rhetorical kill shot" means clever persuasion with words that immediately incapacitates the rhetorical opponent.

Sometimes that phrase is simplified to just "kill shot".

The phrase has been used in at least one book sub-title (How Dare You: Inspecting the Rhetorical Kill-shots of America's Most Banned Comedian, Owen Benjamin).


Without context and especially when omitting the word "rhetorical", some people are prone to misunderstand and/or misuse the phrase, alleging that "kill shot" was meant as a literal suggestion to kill a person.


What words or phrases can be used — words/phrases that are just as snappy as "kill shot" — as a synonym or alternative to that phrase?

I mean, "rhetorical kill shot" or "kill shot" is sharp and catchy while "clever persuasion with words" is cumbersome and slow (and doesn't convey the instantaneous effect).

  • 1
    Put-down: MW put-down noun: an act or instance of putting down especially : a humiliating remark. (Often with qualifying adjective.)
    – Greybeard
    Jul 16 at 12:24
  • @Greybeard Hmm... seems like a reasonable alternative. Especially, when used with an emphasis like "THE put-down that will end our competition". Jul 16 at 12:55
  • Let's be logical: "kill shot" comes from war and fighting. Then, this comedian guy added rhetorical. So, it all depends on context but there is no chicken and egg here. It could be used in many contexts that I can imagine: sports, drinking, and injections.
    – Lambie
    Jul 16 at 17:49
  • 1
    I know the perfect word for this in Spanish. It's an adjective, and you could use it to describe a noun such as point, response, retort, argument, etc. You can see a bunch of options if you look at linguee's translations of contundente: linguee.com/english-spanish/… Note that this approach need not feature any violence, so there would be no risk of a misunderstanding. Jul 17 at 1:26

3 Answers 3


I just found that the noun "dunk shot" might be the closest alternative.

In basketball, they often say just "dunk" like in this video:

But I think "dunk shot" might be better for general use as a figurative statement like:
"the dunk-shot that will destroy our competition".

  • A direct hit is also an expression.
    – Lambie
    Jul 16 at 18:11

Since there is no proper, short synonym for the phrase "rhetorical kill shot" and since that phrase is a new creation itself, I propose creating a new word (noun) as an alternative that meets the criteria in the question.

Here's my line of thinking:

To dumbfound someone or to strike dumb means:
to confound (a person) into silence.

Those would be good synonyms. But we need a noun, not a verb.

So, I propose this new noun:


It is short and snappy. And the creation of this new noun is analogous to the compound noun doorstop.

Also, dumbstop is self-explanatory. It means:

  1. something or someone who/that prevents something dumb from happening. Or

  2. something/someone who/that instantly stops/blocks the rhetorical opponent (possibly by means of clever persuasion) in a way that makes the opponent dumbfounded or speechless.

This new noun — dumbstop — would be a perfect synonym because it expresses the same meaning, is snappy and short and has no association with violence. It also indirectly implies that clever persuasion may be involved.

  • To me, it sounds more like: the x was so dumb it stopped me, from thinking. That movie was so bad it dumbstopped me. To stop thought based on the dumbness of something.
    – Lambie
    Jul 19 at 16:24
  • @Lambie I wasn't proposing that word's use as a verb. As a noun, it's analogous to doorstop. For use as a verb, we already have 2 good alternatives: to dumbfound and to strike dumb. No further verb alternatives needed. Jul 19 at 16:35
  • All nouns in English can be verbed....
    – Lambie
    Jul 19 at 22:04
  • @Lambie All public buildings can be vandalized with graffiti. But I wouldn't recommend doing it. Jul 20 at 15:04

Not really a synonym but I would maybe use some expression like "hit his knee" or "bulls-eye". Curious about the proper answer myself.

  • You should add explanations for your choices. Jul 16 at 16:23
  • Hmm... as a verb, to kneecap comes close. According to Wiktionary, one of the senses is figurative. So, one could say "this will kneecap our competition". Jul 16 at 16:52

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