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An orator giving a speech at a keynote in Prague.

An orator, or oratist, is a public speaker, especially one who is eloquent or skilled.[1]


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).[citation needed]

In the young revolutionary French Republic, Orateur (French for "orator") was the formal title for the delegated members of the Tribunat to the Corps législatif, similar to the role of a "Parliamentary Speaker," 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.


  1. ^ "orator | Definition of orator in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Archived from the original on September 6, 2017. Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  2. ^ African American Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, edited by Richard W. Leeman, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996. ISBN 0-313-29014-8
  3. ^ Daggett, Windsor (1920). A Down-East Yankee From the District of Maine. Portland, Maine: A.J. Huston. p. 30. OCLC 1048477735.
  4. ^ Sears, Donald A. (1978). John Neal. Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers. p. 98. ISBN 9780805772302.