Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

orator - William Jennings Bryan
Famed American orator William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) once defined an orator as "a man who says what he thinks and feels what he says.".


An orator is a skilled public speaker, in particular one who is versed in the art of persuasion.

Franz-Hubert Robling notes that in classical rhetoric, "the orator is a technician, which means a practitioner of the art of rhetoric. Rhetoric refers to the art and science of effective speech, discourse, and prose" (in The Rhetorical Emergence Of Culture, 2011).

See Examples and Observations below.

Also see:

From the Latin, "speak publicly"

Examples and Observations

  • "An orator is a good man who is skilled in speaking."
    (Cato the Elder)
  • Cicero on Oratorical Styles
    "The plain orator is esteemed wise because he speaks clearly and adroitly; the one who employs the middle style is charming; but the copious speaker, if he has nothing else, seems to be scarcely sane. For a man who can say nothing calmly and mildly, who pays no attention to arrangement, precision, clarity or pleasantry, . . . if without first preparing the ears of his audience he begins trying to work them up to a fiery passion, he seems to be a raving madman among the sane, like a drunken reveler in the midst of sober men. . . .

    "He in fact is eloquent who can discuss commonplace matters simply, lofty subjects impressively, and topics raging between in a tempered style."
    (Cicero, Orator, 46 BC, translated by H.M. Hubbell)
  • Quintilian on the True Orator
    "[T]he true orator will always . . . speak well. The objection might, perhaps, hold good against those who think that the end of oratory is to persuade, but my orator and his art, as defined by me, do not depend upon the result; he indeed who speaks directs his efforts toward victory, but when he has spoken well, though he may not be victorious, he has attained the full end of his art."
    (Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory, 95 AD, translated by John Selby Watson)
  • Brutus and Antony: The Orators in Shakespeare's Julius Casear
    "In his oration, Antony denigrates Brutus with the label 'orator.' The orator, he implies, is the moral opposite of the 'plain blunt man' that speaks 'right on,' spontaneously, without assistance from the devious art of rhetoric. . . . Antony, the 'Asiatic' stylist, lays claim to the 'Attic' style that Brutus has just spoken and accuses Brutus of having spoken as he himself is now speaking, Asiatically. Antony's prototypical orator manipulates his audience with calculated sophistry to 'ruffle up their spirits.' . . . But Brutus' oration is no less artificial, no less contrived to move the hearer."
    (John W. Velz, "Orator and Imperator in Julius Caesar: Style and the Process of Roman History." Shakespeare Studies, 1982)
  • In Defense of the Orator
    "The current widespread distrust of the political speaker, the frequently expressed contempt for 'mere rhetoric,' may cause us to forget that throughout the greater part of our history as a nation the orator was chief among American folk heroes."
    (Barnet Baskerville, The People's Voice. Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1979)

    "[The] bad reproach against rhetoric and oratory still exists today. Yet it cannot be denied that public life needs persuasion in order to come to practical solutions for the demands of society, which does not necessarily entail a defense of the lie. The law of public life is action, even though it cannot always be supported by epistemic certainty that remains a matter of philosophical contemplation. But the orator belongs to public life, and so the idea of the prevalence of vita activa and of utilitarianism to pursue one's goals is also traditionally part of rhetorical ethics (Otto 1986:350-360; Robling 2006)."
    (Franz-Hubert Robling, "In Defense of the Orator: A Classicist Outlook on Rhetorical Culture." The Rhetorical Emergence Of Culture, ed. by Christian Meyer and Felix Girke. Berghahn Books, 2011)
  • The Lighter Side of Orators
    "And, as for me, while I could see that it was a moment that called for the intervention of a silver-tongued orator, I felt it wasn't much use having a pop at being a silver-tongued orator if one hadn't anything to say, and I hadn't."
    (P.G. Wodehouse, Thank You, Jeeves, 1934)

Pronunciation: OR-eh-ter

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Nordquist, Richard. "orator." ThoughtCo, Nov. 4, 2015, thoughtco.com/what-is-an-orator-1691457. Nordquist, Richard. (2015, November 4). orator. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-orator-1691457 Nordquist, Richard. "orator." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-orator-1691457 (accessed December 18, 2017).