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Philippic

philippic is a written or verbal speech or essay that is full of anger or bitterness against a person, company, or idea. Common synonyms are tirade or diatribe. The plural form is philippics.

This term comes from the Greek word given to the speeches spoken against Philip II of Macedon. Subsequent speeches were called, in Greek, ‘speeches relating to Philip’. Centuries later the term was applied to similar diatribes given against Marc Antony.

When one is referring to these specific speeches, philippic is capitalized, sometimes as the Philippics, referring to the speeches as a whole. However, it should be lowercase in all other instances.


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The height of its popularity, at least according to Google’s Ngram Viewer, was about 1820. It has declined since, though it has stayed at about the same level of usage for the last two decades. When clarity is paramount, we suggest using a synonym.

Examples

Now comes author and New Republic editor Franklin Foer with the stirring philippic, “Amazon Must Be Stopped.” [The Boston Globe]

The nation watches in wild amazement the philippic responses from government functionaries: a tale of two cabinet Ministers and two deputy ministers. [Ghana Web]

For him, it’s about delivering yet more philippics against Europe, because he reckons that will be helpful for his electoral campaign early next year and therefore he doesn’t want any solution. [DW]

For instance, Adebayo Williams described one of Wole Soyinka’s anti-Buhari philip­pics as “dripping with venom and vitriol” (The Nation 21 January, 2007). [Sun News Online]

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