What is Emotive Language? Definition, Examples of Emotional Language

Emotive language definition: Emotive language is word choice that is used to evoke emotion. Emotive language could also be called emotional language.

What is Emotive Language?

What does emotive language mean? Emotive language pertains to word choice. Specific diction is used to evoke emotion in the reader.

Word choice greatly effects how writing and speech is received. Different words can be used to cause different reactions in the audience.

Define emotional language Any words that cause an emotional reaction are examples of emotive language.

  • Put that in the recycle bin.
    • This sentence is not emotive. It is a command, but it does not cause an emotional reaction.
  • You should recycle because it saves the planet.
    • This sentence is emotive. It suggests an action that elicits an emotional response. Don’t you want to save the planet? How could you choose to not recycle since it saves the planet?
    • The emotive response causes a reaction or a response.

Examples of Emotive Language in Everyday Life

What does emotive mean Emotive language is not reserved for literature either. It is used in everyday interactions as well.

Oftentimes, news headlines use emotive language to hook the audience.

Here are a few examples.

  • An innocent bystander was murdered in cold blood in Downtown Chicago.
    • The words “innocent” and “murdered” and the phrase “in cold blood” are the uses of emotive language in this sentence.
  • A monster of a man violated an underage girl.
    • The words “monster,” “violated,” and “underage” are the uses of emotive language in this sentence.
  • The defenseless victims were attacked in the cover of night.
    • The phrases “defenseless victims” and “cover of night” and the word “attacked” are the uses of emotive language in this sentence.

In each example the emotive words do not need to be used to communicate a fact. However, this diction creates an emotional response in the audience.

The Effect of Emotive Language

Emotive words Emotive language is intended to cause an effect on the audience. When used effectively, emotive language can cause an audience to react in a particular way.

This audience manipulation is a type of rhetoric. Consequently, emotive language can cause an audience to take action or to argue with the speaker.

Emotive language should not be overused. Furthermore, it should be used when there is a purpose the speaker wishes to achieve. Using emotive language effectively can be very beneficial to a speaker.

How Emotive Language is Used in Literature

Emotive words definition In his 1963 civil rights speech, “I Have a Dream,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. elicits emotional responses from his audience members with his effective rhetoric.

One strong use of rhetoric throughout his speech is emotive language. The following is just one excerpt.

“One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

Here, Doctor King uses emotive (and figurative) language to stir up his audience. He wants them to feel unsettled and bothered. He wants them to take action in the Civil Rights Movement. Vividly, he depicts what the African American’s life is like in contrast to a White man’s experience.


Define emotive language: the definition of emotive language is language used to evoke emotions from an audience.

In summary, emotive language:

  • is intended to cause an emotional response in the audience
  • is a type of diction that can be used to persuade the audience
  • should be used purposefully and mindfully