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Examples of Invective

Invective is abusive or insulting language. Invective comes from the Latin invectus, which translates as “attack with words.” It can be a word or phrase that is meant to insult or degrade. As an adjective, it means anything that contains abusive language, like a letter or spoken words.

Invective: A Noun and an Adjective

Here are examples of the noun invective:

  • Calling a person a chicken when they are unwilling to jump off the top of a building.
  • Referring to an old, physically disabled man as a bungling fool when he is not able to quickly get his subway token into the machine.
  • Labeling someone who took credit for your idea as a cheater.
  • Accusing someone who you believe was dishonest of being a filthy liar.
  • Calling a person who is lazy, overweight and who never exercises a lard butt.
  • Referring to the crazy old woman who lives down the street from you as an old bat.
  • Indicating that a businessman who you believe cheated you is a dirty rotten scoundrel.

Here are examples of the adjective invective:

  • Abusive
  • Antagonistic
  • Brutal
  • Castigating
  • Caustic
  • Contemptuous
  • Defamatory
  • Denigrating
  • Derogative
  • Disgracing
  • Dishonoring
  • Disparaging
  • Harsh
  • Humiliating
  • Injurious
  • Insolent
  • Intimidating
  • Libeling
  • Malevolent
  • Maligning
  • Obscene
  • Offensive
  • Pejorative
  • Reproaching
  • Reviling
  • Rude
  • Scathing
  • Scurrilous
  • Shaming
  • Slanderous
  • Sneering
  • Spiteful
  • Vilifying

Examples of Invectives in Literature

Here are a few examples:

“A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir to a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deni’st the least syllable of thy addition.”(William Shakespeare “King Lear”, II.2)

“A vile beastly rottenheaded foolbegotten brazenthroated pernicious piggish screaming, tearing, roaring, perplexing, splitmecrackle crashmecriggle insane ass of a woman is practicing howling below-stairs with a brute of a singingmaster so horribly, that my head is nearly off.”(Edward Lear, “Letter to Lady Strachey”)

“In the internal decoration, if not in the external architecture of their residences, the English are supreme. The Italians have but little sentiment beyond marbles and colors. In France, meliora probant, deteriora sequuntur–the people are too much a race of gadabouts to maintain those household proprieties of which, indeed, they have a delicate appreciation, or, at least, the elements of a proper sense. The Chinese and most of the Eastern races have a warm but inappropriate fancy. The Scotch are poor decorists. The Dutch have, perhaps, an indeterminate idea that a curtain is not a cabbage. In Spain they are all curtains–a nation of hangmen. The Russians do not furnish. The Hottentots and Kickapoos are very well in their way. The Yankees alone are preposterous.”(Edgar Allan Poe “The Philosophy of Furniture”)

“The soul, O ganders, flies beyond the parks
And far beyond the discords of the wind.
A bronze rain from the sun descending marks
The death of summer, which that time endures
Like one who scrawls a listless testament
Of golden quirks and Paphian caricatures,” (Wallace Stevens “Invective Against Swans”)

“I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”(Jonathan Swift)

“The soul, O ganders, flies beyond the parks
And far beyond the discords of the wind.
A bronze rain from the sun descending marks
The death of summer, which that time endures
Like one who scrawls a listless testament
Of golden quirks and Paphian caricatures,” (Anne Killigrew “Invective Against Swans”)

“A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.” (King James I, “Counterblast to Tobacco”)

Examples of Invectives by Famous People

Here are some examples:

  • “His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” Mae West
  • “He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” Oscar Wilde
  • “I didn’t attend the funeral but I sent a nice letter saying I approved.” Mark Twain
  • “He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” Billy Wilder
  • “I’ve had a perfectly lovely evening, but this wasn’t it.” Grouch Marx

Now you have seen lots of examples of invectives in different situations.


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