mid-15c., rethorical, "eloquent, according to the principles of rhetoric," from rhetoric (n.) or else from Latin rhetoricus (in Medieval Latin rethoricus), from Greek rhētorikos "oratorical, rhetorical; skilled in speaking," from rhētōr "orator."
The meaning "pertaining to rhetoric" is from 1520s. In later use also with implication of artificial extravagance. Rhetorical question, "statement put in the form of a question for rhetorical effect only and thus not requiring an answer," is from 1670s. Related: Rhetorically.
updated on August 10, 2021