Discourse Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

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There are a ton of words in the American English language — more than 600,000, to be exact. While you likely know a large number of them, chances are there are some words that you don’t know (yet). 

Take the term discourse, for example: What does this word mean, and where did it come from? We’ll tell you. 

Read on as we explore the English word discourse to uncover its definition, origin, and more. 

What Is the Definition of Discourse?

According to the Collins Dictionary, discourse is written or spoken communication between people — especially serious discussion of a particular subject. In simpler terms, it’s communication of thought by words.

In linguistics, our word of the day is any unity of connected speech or writing longer than a sentence. And when used as a transitive verb, discourse means to utter or to give forth (musical sounds).  

What Is the Etymology of Discourse?

A derivative of the Latin prefix dis– (meaning “away”) and the root word currere (meaning “to run”), the word discourse was first noted in the late 14th century. Discourse also derives from the verb discurrere and the Medieval Latin discursus

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms of Discourse?

Our word of the day can be defined as written or spoken communication, but what are its synonyms and antonyms? 

To refresh your memory (in case you’ve forgotten since grade school), a synonym is a word or phrase with a meaning that is the same or similar to another word or phrase. In contrast to synonyms, an antonym is a word or phrase of opposite meaning. 

Synonyms of discourse include:

  • Essay
  • Address
  • Small talk
  • Chin music
  • Yapping
  • Yammering
  • Chit chat
  • Run-in
  • Difference of opinion
  • Articulation
  • Knockdown and drag out
  • Oral communication
  • Lecture
  • Exchange of views
  • Deliberation
  • Flowery language
  • Public speaking
  • Talk
  • Lecture
  • Sermon
  • Hold forth 
  • Argument
  • Pep talk
  • Yackety yak
  • Tittle tattle
  • Interchange
  • Debate
  • Disquisition 
  • Chewing the fat
  • Verbal exchange
  • Tongue lashing
  • Disputation
  • Verbal onslaught
  • Objection
  • Diatribe
  • Stream of abuse
  • Flak
  • Stricture
  • Verbal attack
  • Critique
  • Write up
  • Chalk talk

Antonyms of discourse include:

  • Quiet
  • Silence
  • Speechless
  • Decrease
  • Ignore
  • Keep quiet
  • Agree
  • Abridge
  • Dissuasion
  • Unconnectedness
  • Forget

How Can You Use Discourse in a Sentence?

Discourse is a formal lengthy exposition of some subject, either spoken or written.

Now that you are up to speed with the meaning behind our word of the day, it’s time to put your newly discovered knowledge to the test. Quiz yourself to see how many correct sentences you can come up with using discourse. 

Not sure where to start? Check out our example sentences listed below:

“Serious debate between candidates should engage in serious political discourse.”

“Did you know that discourse analysis is a popular qualitative analysis technique that is also known as critical discourse analysis?”

“Do you have any good examples of discourse?”

“When studying discourse analysis, you might focus on how values, assumptions, and beliefs are communicated.”

“Are you familiar with the six characteristics of discourse communities?”

“Like other types of communication, jokes are examples of discourse.”

“Miss Jenning had us read Macbeth by William Shakespeare before asking us which type of discourse it was.”

“After considering the opening paragraph of Mr. Smith’s play, I believe argumentive discourse was used.”

What Are the Different Types of Discourse?

Believe it or not, there is more than one type of discourse. Yup, it’s true — the different types of discourse include:

  • Descriptive discourse. This type of discourse relies on the five senses — hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch — often with empathy and emotion involved. 
  • Narrative discourse. This form of communication tells a story — more often than not, with empathy and emotion involved. 
  • Expository discourse. Commonly used to inform the audience of something with relatively neutral language, it’s not meant to evoke or persuade emotion
  • Argumentative discourse. This is a form of communication that is meant to convince an audience that the speaker or writer is correct by using evidence and reason.
  • Poetic discourse. This form of communication is made up of creative, fictional writing and includes novels, dramas, and poems. 
  • Transactional discourse. This form of communication is used to put something into action and generally doesn’t rely so much on literary devices. 
  • Expressive discourse. This form of discourse comprises acts of literary writing that isn’t non-fiction but is creative. This could include letters, blogs, and memoirs. 

What Are Translations of Discourse?

There are many ways to say the word discourse — here are some of them:

  • Italian — discorso
  • Vietnamese — đàm luận, bài diển văn, cuộc nói chuyện
  • Brazilian Portuguese — discurso
  • French — le discours
  • Ukrainian — дискурс, ораторствувати, розмовляти
  • Polish — rozprawiać
  • Thai — วาทกรรม, สนทนา, ปาฐกถา
  • Portugese — o discurso, a dissertação
  • Latin — sermo, loquela
  • Catalan — discurs
  • Korean — 담화, 논설, 강화
  • Greek — ομιλία
  • Japanese — 講話, 演説, 会談
  • Czech — diskurz, rozmluva
  • Chinese (simplified) — 话语, 论述, 交谈
  • Russian — дискурс, рассуждать, ораторствовать, излагать в форме лекции
  • Swedish — samtala, hålla tal
  • Danish — diskurs
  • German — der Diskurs, die Abhandlung, das Gespräch
  • Dutch — gesprek, toespraak, redevoering, preek


Discourse simply refers to an exchange of ideas. While they are often heated exchanges, there is always a sort of “give and take” or order between the participants. With that said, it’s easy to see how our word of the day is beloved by teachers from all corners of the globe.


Discourse: definition | Cambridge English Dictionary 

Discourse definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 

Discourse synonyms: 1 141 Words and Phrases for Discourse | Power Thesaurus