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An orator, or oratist, is a public speaker, especially one who is eloquent or skilled.
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 (underpay 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.
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 are, by necessity, 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 perform many speeches, as may those who support or oppose a particular issue. To include them all would be prohibitive.
African American Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, edited by Richard W. Leeman, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996. ISBN0-313-29014-8
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. ISBN0-8093-3057-1 | ISBN978-0-8093-3057-7
Contemporary American Voices: Significant Speeches in American History, 1945-Present, edited by James R. Andrews and David Zarefsky, Longman Publishing Group, 1991. ISBN0-8013-0218-8ISBN978-0-8013-0218-3