Ad Hominem Definition and Meaning: What is Ad Hominem?

Ad Hominem Definition

ad hom·i·nem (hm-nm, -nm)


Appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason: Debaters should avoid ad hominem arguments that question their opponents' motives.

[Latin : ad, to + hominem, accusative of hom, man.]

ad homi·nem adv.

Usage Note: As the principal meaning of the preposition ad suggests, the homo of ad hominem was originally the person to whom an argument was addressed, not its subject. The phrase denoted an argument designed to appeal to the listener's emotions rather than to reason, as in the sentence The Republicans' evocation of pity for the small farmer struggling to maintain his property is a purely ad hominem argument for reducing inheritance taxes. This usage appears to be waning; only 37 percent of the Usage Panel finds this sentence acceptable. The phrase now chiefly describes an argument based on the failings of an adversary rather than on the merits of the case: Ad hominem attacks on one's opponent are a tried-and-true strategy for people who have a case that is weak. Ninety percent of the Panel finds this sentence acceptable. The expression now also has a looser use in referring to any personal attack, whether or not it is part of an argument, as in It isn't in the best interests of the nation for the press to attack him in this personal, ad hominem way. This use is acceptable to 65 percent of the Panel. · Ad hominem has also recently acquired a use as a noun denoting personal attacks, as in "Notwithstanding all the ad hominem, Gingrich insists that he and Panetta can work together" (Washington Post). This usage may raise some eyebrows, though it appears to be gaining ground in journalistic style. · A modern coinage patterned on ad hominem is ad feminam, as in "Its treatment of Nabokov and its ad feminam attack on his wife Vera often border on character assassination" (Simon Karlinsky). Though some would argue that this neologism is unnecessary because the Latin word homo refers to humans generically, rather than to the male sex, in some contexts ad feminam has a more specific meaning than ad hominem, being used to describe attacks on women as women or because they are women.

ad hominem Latin [æd ˈhɒmɪˌnɛm]

adj & adv

1. directed against a person rather than against his arguments

2. based on or appealing to emotion rather than reason Compare ad rem See also argumentum ad hominem

[literally: to the man] hominem - appealing to personal considerations (rather than to fact or reason); "ad hominem arguments"

personal - concerning or affecting a particular person or his or her private life and personality; "a personal favor"; "for your personal use"; "personal papers"; "I have something personal to tell you"; "a personal God"; "he has his personal bank account and she has hers"


1.appealing to one's prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one's intellect, reason or established morals.

2.attacking an opponent's character rather than answering his argument.

Compare ad feminam.


From the Latin, "against the man"

Examples and Observations

"The abusive ad hominem is not just a case of directing abusive language toward another person. . . . The fallacy is committed when one engages in a personal attack as a means of ignoring, discrediting, or blunting the force of another's argument.

"Although some faulty arguers may call attention to distasteful features of their opponents in order to manipulate the responses of their audience, most abusers apparently believe that such characteristics actually provide good reasons for ignoring or discrediting the arguments of those who have them. Logically, of course, the fact that any of these characteristics might fit an opponent provides no reason to ignore or discredit his or her arguments or criticisms."
(T. E. Damer, Attacking Faulty Reasoning. Wadsworth, 2001)

"Do we live in an age of hatred? Or has the language of political insult simply become more extreme? Tap the words 'I hate Gordon Brown' into Google, and it comes up with 1,490,000 entries. . . .

"Here is one sentence, culled from a recent national newspaper leader . . .: 'They [British voters] know their Premier to be a neurotic, dysfunctional mediocrity; an insecure Stalinist who worships power but cannot take a decision; a moral and political coward who tries to fill the vacuum at the heart of his leadership with blustering rhetoric and adolescent bullying.'

"Lampooned figures in the past . . . were, from time to time, enveloped in crises every bit as damaging as those that confront Mr Brown. But never were they subjected to such woundingly ad hominem attacks."
(M. Linklater, "The Age of Personal Vitriolic Abuse," The Times, May 16, 2008)

It is important to make clear that no justified criticism and/or Ad hominem attacks can be considered as Ad Hominem or wrong ("justified" attacks should obviously be understood as not used for the purpose of discrediting something which is true). Therefore, I can see no wrong in the above attack directed at Gordon Brown, for he is indeed a coward -- but not only a coward, he is also a heretic -- since he goes against his own conscience and the natural law that is written on everyone’s heart that tells them that certain activities are inherently wrong, evil and shameful; such as abortion. Gordon Brown allows and approves of just such evils, such as abortion, either to please himself or others and by so doing avoids doing what is right and what he should be doing. All people who think that abortion is a woman’s “right” or that it is nothing wrong with it, is evil and a heretic. Gordon Brown also said that he would vote against any proposals to reduce the (current) 24-week limit as he believed there was no scientific evidence to support a change in the law.

It is ridiculous; in one room in a hospital now doctors can be trying to save a child's life while in another they may be terminating the life of a child at of exactly the same age. We saw earlier this year the survival of a child at 21 weeks. Even David steel who was the sponsor of the original abortion bill has said that the scandalous 200,000 abortions a year in the UK means that people are using abortions as a means of contraception. Surely in an age where the 4D ultrasound speaks on behalf of the voiceless child in the womb this is a crime without parallel. Abortion, not death camps, is the real holocaust!

Lincoln's Use of Ad Hominem
"A story is told about [Abraham] Lincoln as a young lawyer. In one of his first jury cases, he showed his political shrewdness by an adroit and quite non-malicious use of ad hominem. His opponent was an experienced trial lawyer, who also had most of the fine legal points on his side. The day was warm and Lincoln slumped in his chair as the case went against him. When the orator took off his coat and vest, however, Lincoln sat up with a gleam in his eye. His opponent was wearing one of the new city-slicker shirts of the 1840's, which buttoned up the back.

"Lincoln knew the reactions of frontiersmen, who made up the jury. When his turn came, his plea was brief: 'Gentlemen of the jury, because I have justice on my side, I am sure you will not be influenced by this gentleman's pretended knowledge of the law. Why. he doesn't even know which side of his shirt ought to be in front!'

"Lincoln's ad hominem is said to have won the case."
(Stuart Chase, Guides to Straight Thinking. Harper & Row, 1956)

Legitimate Uses of Ad Hominem Arguments

"[T]here may be cases in which an ad hominem argument is a legitimate rhetorical tool. When the special interests or associations of an individual or group appear to have a direct impact on their position on an issue, it is fair to raise questions about their lack of objectivity on that basis. For example, the organizer of a petition to build a state-supported recycling center may seem reasonably suspect if it is revealed that he owns the land on which the proposed recycling center would be built. While the property owner may be motivated by sincere environmental concerns, the direct relationship between his position and his personal life makes this fair game for a challenge."

Definition: Ad hominem is a Latin term meaning "to the man". It is short for "argumentum ad hominem" which refers to an argument against a man. An argument that is ad hominem is one that has deviated from the claims being made and has instead focused on the person making the claims.

Description of Ad Hominem

Translated from Latin to English, "Ad Hominem" means "against the man" or "against the person."

An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:

  1. Person A makes claim X.

  2. Person B makes an attack on person A.

  3. Therefore A's claim is false.

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).

Example of Ad Hominem

  1. Bill: "I believe that abortion is morally wrong."
    Dave: "Of course you would say that, you're a priest."
    Bill: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?"
    Dave: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a priest, so you have to say that abortion is wrong. Further, you are just a lackey to the Pope, so I can't believe what you say."

  2. An attack upon an opponent in order to discredit their argument or opinion. Ad hominems are used by immature and/or unintelligent people because they are unable to counter their opponent using logic and intelligence.

  3. Person A: I think we should spend more money on environmental protection.
    Person B: You just think that because you’re a stupid tree-hugger.
    Person A: It is crucial that we facilitate adequate means to prevent degradation that would jeopardize the project.
    Person B: You think that just because you use big words makes you sound smart? Now shut up you loser; you don't know what you're talking about.

Originally from the Latin meaning - "argument to the man", "argument against the man".
Now meaning Argument against what a person has posted via the net and brought about by Psychological projection as to the person hidden behind the Computer Screen and On-line Identity.

Can also be seen as an idiotic lack of appreciation of Netiquette and also gross self absorption by the reader/responder.

Ad-hominem means appealing to emotion and prejudice rather than reason or logic. (adjective)

Showing an innocent victim's face instead of providing factual evidence is an example of an ad-hominem approach.

Ad hominem sentence examples

  • Ad hominem attacks or just plain verbal abuse.

  • You cannot beat a good argumentum ad hominem now, can you?

  • Indeed accusing someone falsely of an ad hominem approach to debate is itself an ad hominem argument.

  • He quotes it for a purpose, in an argument ad hominem.

  • Ad hominem degrees should be discussed with directors of studies and with the units involved as early as possible.

  • Ad hominem slurs.

  • Ad hominem assault.

  • Ad hominem fallacy to impugn the honesty of a critic to avoid his arguments.
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