What’s the Difference Between a Speech and an Address?
Nabil Bayouk asks:
What is the difference between speech and address (noun)
Used as a noun, address is not the first word one would choose in ordinary circumstances. The more common choice is speech:
The candidate gave a speech.
The principal’s speech went on too long.
I’ve been asked to give a speech to the garden club.
Speeches given on formal occasions are more likely to be called “addresses.”
I’ve been asked to give the graduation address.
The President’s inaugural address was heard by millions.
American children memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
As a verb, address suits any occasion:
The principal addressed the assembled students.
The candidate addressed the crowd.
English offers several other nouns that have much the same meaning as speech and address, each with its own nuances and uses.
Writers looking for just the right shade of meaning may choose from:
discourse [dĭs’kôrs’, -kōrs’] A formal, lengthy discussion of a subject (A discourse can also be written.)
disquisition [dĭs’kwĭ-zĭsh’ən] A formal discourse on a subject (A disquisition can also be written.)
harangue [hə-răng’] A long pompous speech, especially one delivered before a gathering.
homily [hŏm’ə-lē] a commentary, without formal introduction, division, or conclusion, that interprets some part of scripture.
lecture [lĕk’chər] An exposition of a given subject delivered before an audience or a class for the purpose of instruction.
monologue [mŏn’ə-lôg’, -lŏg’] Literally, a monologue is a speech spoken by one person. Browning’s “My Last Duchess” is a poem written entirely as a monologue as the Duke of Ferrara reveals himself to an appalled listener. In contemporary usage, the word is often applied to a continuous series of jokes delivered by one comedian.
oration [ô-rā’shən] A formal speech, especially one given on a ceremonial occasion.
peroration [pe‐rŏ‐ray‐shŭn] The concluding part of an oration; especially, a final summing up and enforcement of an argument. Law and Order episodes often show the perorations of the opposing lawyers.
sermon [sûr’mən] A religious discourse delivered as part of a church service.
soliloquy sə-lĭl’ə-kwē) In a discussion of literature, a soliloquy is a speech spoken by a character alone on the stage, or alone in his thoughts. The most famous dramatic soliloquy is probably Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” speech.
spiel [spēl, shpēl] lengthy speech intended to persuade. Used informally. Ex. The vacuum salesman gave me his spiel.
All or most of these words may be used in an ironic or negative sense to describe any long, boring, or unwanted verbal expression.
Lecture, discourse, and harangue can also be used as verbs:
Don’t you lecture me on my driving!
She loves to discourse on gardening.
The Hyde Park speaker harangued the crowd about the government.
Sermonize is a verb derived from sermon, but it has a negative connotation.
If you’re going to sermonize about my faults again, I’m leaving!
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