An orator, or oratist, is a public speaker, especially one who is eloquent or skilled.


Recorded in English c. 1374, with a meaning of "one who pleads or argues for a cause", from Anglo-French ''oratour'', Old French ''orateur'' (14th century), Latin ''orator'' ("speaker"), from ''orare'' ("speak before a court or assembly; plead"), derived from a Proto-Indo-European base *''or-'' ("to pronounce a ritual formula"). The modern meaning of the word, "public speaker", is attested from c. 1430.


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 young revolutionary French Republic, ''Orateur'' (French for "orator", but compare the Anglo-Saxon parliamentary speaker) was the formal title for the delegated members of the Tribunat to the Corps législatif, to motivate their ruling on a presented bill. In the 19th century, orators and historians and speakers such as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Col. Robert G. Ingersoll were major providers of popular entertainment. A ''pulpit orator'' is a Christian author, often a clergyman, renowned for their ability to write or deliver (from the pulpit in church, hence the word) rhetorically skilled religious sermons. 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.


The following is a list of those who have been noted as famous ''specifically'' for their oratory abilities, or for a particularly famous speech or speeches. Most religious leaders and politicians (by nature of their office) may give many speeches, as may those who support or oppose a particular issue. A list of all such leaders would be prohibitively long.

Classical era

*The ten Attic orators (Greece) **Demosthenes, champion of the Philippic **Aeschines **Andocides **Antiphon **Dinarchus **Hypereides **Lysias **Isaeus **Isocrates **Lycurgus of Athens *Aristogeiton *Claudius Aelianus, ''meliglossos'', 'honey-tongued' *Cicero *Corax of Syracuse *Gaius Scribonius Curio, ''praetor urbanus'' in Roman Republic BC *Gorgias *Hegesippus, Athenian *Julius Caesar, Roman dictator *Licinius Macer Calvus, Roman poet and orator *Marcus Antonius (orator), Roman *Pericles, Athenian statesman *Quintilian *Quintus Hortensius *John Chrysostom (literally ''golden-mouthed''), Christian preacher

18th Century and later

*Allied leaders of World War II: **Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister) **Franklin D. Roosevelt (US President) **Charles de Gaulle (Free French general; later President of France) **Douglas MacArthur (US General of the Army) - ''Farewell Speech to Congress'' *Axis leaders of World War II: **Adolf Hitler (Führer of Nazi Germany) **Benito Mussolini (Il Duce of Fascist Italy) **Joseph Goebbels (Nazi Propaganda Minister) * The U.S. 19th century Great Triumvirate: **Henry Clay **John C. Calhoun **Daniel Webster *Independence and civil rights leaders **Jawaharlal Nehru - ''Tryst with Destiny'' **William Jennings Bryan - ''Cross of Gold speech'' **Frederick Douglass - ''Self-Made Men'' **Patrick Henry - ''Give me Liberty, or give me Death!'' **Martin Luther King Jr. - ''I Have A Dream'' **Sojourner TruthAfrican American Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, edited by Richard W. Leeman, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996. - ''Ain't I a Woman?'' **Malcolm X - ''The Ballot or the Bullet'' **Nelson Mandela - ''I Am Prepared to Die'' *Presidents of the United States **Abraham Lincoln - ''Gettysburg address'' **John F. Kennedy - ''Inaugural Address'' **Richard M. Nixon - ''Checkers speech'' (while Vice-President) **Ronald Reagan - ''Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!'' **Barack H. Obama - ''A More Perfect Union (speech)'' *Ralph Waldo Emerson - ''The American Scholar'' *Margaret Thatcher - ''The lady's not for turning'' *Leon Trotsky *Robert G. Ingersoll *John Neal, first American orator on women's rights



*''Catholic Encyclopaedia'' (''passim'') *1911 ''Encyclopædia Britannica'' (''passim'')
*African American Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, edited by Richard W. Leeman, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996. *The Will of a People: A Critical Anthology of Great Speeches by African Americans, edited with critical introductions by Richard W. Leeman and Bernard K. Duffy, Southern Illinois University Press, 2012. | *American Orators of the Twentieth Century: Critical Studies and Sources, edited by Bernard K. Duffy and Halford R. Ryan, Greenwood, 1987. *American Orators Before 1900: Critical Studies and Sources, edited by Bernard K. Duffy and Halford R. Ryan, Greenwood, 1987. *American Voices: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Orators, edited by Bernard K. Duffy and Richard W. Leeman, Greewnood, 1987. *Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800–1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, edited by Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Greenwood, 1993. *American Voices, Significant Speeches in American History: 1640–1945, edited by James Andrews and David Zarefsky, Longman Publishing Group, 1989. *Contemporary American Voices: Significant Speeches in American History, 1945–Present, edited by James R. Andrews and David Zarefsky, Longman Publishing Group, 1991. *Contemporary American Public Discourse. 3rd Edition. edited by Halford Ross Ryan, Waveland Press, 1991. |

External links

Voices of DemocracyAmerican Rhetoric
{{Authority control Category:Public speaking *List of orators it:Oratoria hu:Szónoki beszéd