AskDefine | Define oration

Dictionary Definition

oration n : an instance of oratory; "he delivered an oration on the decline of family values"

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Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Orator is an originally Latin word for (public) speaker.


It is recorded in English since c.1374, meaning "one who pleads or argues for a cause," from Anglo-French oratour, from Old French orateur (14c.), from Latin orator "speaker," from orare "speak before a court or assembly, plead," from a Proto-Indo-European base *or- "to pronounce a ritual formula". The modern meaning "public speaker" is attested from c.1430.
The derived word oration, originally used for prayer since c.1375, now means (recorded since 1502) any formal speech, as on a ceremonial occasion or delivered in similar high-flown or pompous manner. Also another word for oratist.
Its etymological doublet orison is recorded since c.1175, from Anglo-French oreison, Old French oraison "oration" (12c.), from Latin oratio "speech, oration," notably in Church Latin "prayer, appeal to God," from orare as above, but retained its devotional specialisation. "Oratio" is actually two words combined "oris" and "ratio" meaning "spoken reason".
One meaning of the word oratory is abstract: the art of public speaking.
There is also the equivalent Greek word rhētōr, hence the abstract noun rhetoric.
A person who is an orator may also be called an "oratarian" - literally "he who orates."


In ancient Rome, the art of speaking in public (Ars Oratoria) was a professional competence especially cultivated by politicians and lawyers. As the Greeks were still seen as the masters in this field, as in philosophy and most sciences, the leading Roman families often either sent their sons to study these things under a famous master in Greece (as was the case with the young Julius Caesar) or engaged a Greek teacher (under pay or as a slave).
In the 18th century, 'Orator' John Henley was famous for his eccentric sermons.
In the 19th century, orators and lecturers, such as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Col. Robert G. Ingersoll were major providers of popular entertainment.

Formal titles

In the young revolutionary French republic, Orateur (French for Orator, but compare the Anglosaxon parliamentary speaker) was the term for the delegated members of the Tribunat to the Corps législatif to motivate their ruling on a presented bill.
In some universities the title 'Orator' is given to the official whose task it is to give speeches on ceremonial occasions, such as the presentation of honorary degrees.
Grand Orator is a high rank in the Grand Lodges of Freemasonry in certain US states (including Alabama, Arizona, ,California (where 'The Grand Orator shall deliver an address at each Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge upon matters appertaining to the Craft and deliver such other addresses as the Grand Master may request.' - California Masonic Code #3050), Missouri, North Carolina)

Pulpit orator

This term denotes Christian authors, often clergymen, who are renowned for their ability to write and/or deliver (from the pulpit in church, hence the word) rhetorically skilled religious sermons.

Other famous orators

Ancient and medieval orators

Modern orators

Though most politicians (by nature of their office) may perform many speeches, as do those who support or oppose a political issue, to include them all would be prohibitive. The following are those who have been noted as famous specifically for their oratory abilities, and/or a particularly famous speech or speeches.


Sources and references

oration in Bulgarian: Оратор
oration in German: Orator
oration in Modern Greek (1453-): Ρήτορας
oration in French: Orateurs attiques
oration in Polish: Orator
oration in Russian: Оратор
oration in Slovenian: Govornik

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

address, after-dinner speech, allocution, chalk talk, debate, declamation, declaration, diatribe, discourse, eulogy, exhortation, filibuster, forensic, forensic address, formal speech, funeral oration, harangue, homily, hortatory address, inaugural, inaugural address, invective, jeremiad, lecture, monologue, panegyric, pep talk, peroration, philippic, pitch, prepared speech, prepared text, public speech, reading, recital, recitation, sales talk, salutatory, salutatory address, say, screed, set speech, speech, speechification, speeching, spiel, talk, talkathon, tirade, valediction, valedictory, valedictory address
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