An orator, or oratist, is a public speaker. An orator may also be called an oratorian — literally, "one who orates".
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.
The term pulpit orator denotes Christian authors, often clergymen, renowned for their ability to write and/or deliver (from the pulpit in church, hence the word) rhetorically skilled religious sermons.
The following are, by necessity, those who have been noted as famous specifically for their oratory abilities, and/or for a particularly famous speech or speeches. Most religious leaders and politicians (by nature of their office) may perform many speeches, as may those who support or oppose a particular issue. To include them all would be prohibitive.
- The ten Attic orators (Greece)
- Claudius Aelianus, meliglossos, 'honey-tongued'
- Corax of Syracuse
- Gaius Scribonius Curio
- Hegesippus, Athenian
- Julius Caesar, Roman dictator
- Licinius Macer Calvus, Roman poet and orator
- Marcus Antonius (orator), Roman
- Nicetas of Smyrna, 1st century AD, Greek sophist and orator
- Pericles, Athenian statesman
- Quintus Hortensius
- Allied and Axis leaders of World War II noted for their speeches:
- The Great Triumvirate:
- Jawaharlal Nehru - Tryst with Destiny
- William Jennings Bryan - Cross of Gold speech
- Frederick Douglass - Self-Made Men
- Ralph Waldo Emerson - The American Scholar
- Patrick Henry - Give me Liberty, or give me Death!
- John F. Kennedy (US President) - Inaugural Address
- Martin Luther King, Jr. - I Have A Dream
- Abraham Lincoln (US President) - Gettysburg address
- Richard M. Nixon (US Vice-President) - Checkers speech
- Barack Obama (US President) - The Audacity of Hope; A More Perfect Union
- Ronald Reagan (US President) - First Inaugural Address; Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
- Margaret Thatcher - The lady's not for turning
- Sojourner Truth - Ain't I a Woman?
- Malcolm X - The Ballot or the Bullet
- Nelson Mandela - I Am Prepared to Die
- Catholic Encyclopaedia (passim)
- 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica (passim)
- African American Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, edited by Richard W. Leeman, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996. ISBN 0-313-29014-8
- 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. ISBN 0-8093-3057-1 | ISBN 978-0-8093-3057-7
- American Orators of the Twentieth Century: Critical Studies and Sources, edited by Bernard K. Duffy and Halford R. Ryan, Greenwood, 1987. ISBN 0-313-24843-5 ISBN 978-0-313-24843-6
- American Orators Before 1900: Critical Studies and Sources, edited by Bernard K. Duffy and Halford R. Ryan, Greenwood, 1987. ISBN 0-313-25129-0 ISBN 978-0-313-25129-0
- American Voices: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Orators, edited by Bernard K. Duffy and Richard W. Leeman, Greewnood, 1987. ISBN 0-313-32790-4 ISBN 978-0-313-32790-2
- Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800–1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, edited by Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Greenwood, 1993. ISBN 0-313-27533-5 ISBN 978-0-313-27533-3
- American Voices, Significant Speeches in American History: 1640–1945, edited by James Andrews and David Zarefsky, Longman Publishing Group, 1989. ISBN 0-8013-0217-X ISBN 978-0-8013-0217-6
- Contemporary American Voices: Significant Speeches in American History, 1945–Present, edited by James R. Andrews and David Zarefsky, Longman Publishing Group, 1991. ISBN 0-8013-0218-8 ISBN 978-0-8013-0218-3
- Contemporary American Public Discourse. 3rd Edition. edited by Halford Ross Ryan, Waveland Press, 1991. ISBN 0-88133-629-7 | ISBN 978-0-88133-629-0
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