Rhetorical Terms

    Alliteration: repetition of the same sound beginning several words in sequence.

    ·         “Let us go forth to lead the land we love.” J. F. Kennedy, Inaugural

    Anacoluthon: lack of grammatical sequence; a change in the grammatical construction within the same sentence.

    ·         “Agreements entered into when one state of facts exists -- are they to be maintained regardless of changing conditions?” J. Diefenbaker

    Analogy: a comparison between two quite different things. Metaphors and similes set up analogies, as can prose.

    ·         “They crowded very close about him, with their hands always on him in a careful, caressing grip, as though all the while feeling him to make sure he was there. It was like men handling a fish which is still alive and may jump back into the water.” George Orwell

    Anadiplosis: ("doubling back") the rhetorical repetition of one or several words; specifically, repetition of a word that ends one clause at the beginning of the next.

    ·         “Men in great place are thrice servants: servants of the sovereign or state; servants of fame; and servants of business.” Francis Bacon

    Anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses or lines.

    ·         “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.” Churchill.

    Anastrophe: transposition of normal word order; most often found in Latin in the case of prepositions and the words they control. Anastrophe is a form of hyperbaton.

    ·         “The helmsman steered; the ship moved on; yet never a breeze up blew.” Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    Anecdote: a short and interesting or amusing story about a real incident or person.

    Antistrophe: repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses.

    ·         “In 1931, ten years ago, Japan invaded Manchukuo—without warning. In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia—without warning. In 1938, Hitler occupied Austria—without warning. In 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia—without warning. Later in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland—without warning. And now Japan has attacked Malaya and Thailand—and the United States—without warning.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Antithesis: opposition, or contrast of ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction.

    ·         “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Barry Goldwater

    ·         Brutus: “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

    ·         “The vases of the classical period are but the reflection of classical beauty; the vases of the archaic period are beauty itself." Sir John Beazley

    Aporia: expression of doubt (often feigned) by which a speaker appears uncertain as to what he should think, say, or do.

    ·         Then the steward said within himself, 'What shall I do?' Luke 16

    Aposiopesis: the leaving of a thought incomplete by a sudden breaking off. A form of ellipse by which a speaker comes to an abrupt halt, seemingly overcome by passion (fear, excitement, etc.) or modesty.

    ·         “His behavior was—but I blush to mention that.”

    Apostrophe: a sudden turn from the general audience to address a specific group or person or personified abstraction absent or present.

    ·         “For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel.
    Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him.” Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

    Archaism: use of an older or obsolete form.

    ·         “Pipit sate upright in her chair
    Some distance from where I was sitting.” T. S. Eliot, "A Cooking Egg"

    Assonance: repetition of the same vowel sound in words close to each other. A subset of alliteration.

    ·         Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

    ·         The capable maker of drapes ate gracefully.

    Asyndeton: lack of conjunctions between coordinate phrases, clauses, or words. A subset of brachylogy.

    ·         “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardships, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” J. F. Kennedy, Inaugural

    ·         “But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.” Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

    Brachylogy: an abbreviated or condensed expression, of which asyndeton and zeugma are types. Ellipse is often used synonymously. The suppressed word or phrase can usually be supplied easily from the surrounding context.

    ·         The omission of “good” from the expression “Afternoon” is a brachylogy.

    ·         Any notably extreme brevity can be called brachylogy (or “brachylogia”), as in the parentheses Nabokov gives in Lolita: “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest past, nothing of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory . . .."

    Cacophony: harsh joining of sounds.

    *We want no parlay with you and your grisly gang who work your wicked will. W. Churchill

    Catachresis: a metaphor involving the use of a word beyond its strict sphere.

    *I listen vainly, but with thirsty ear. MacArthur, Farewell Address

    Chiasmus: two corresponding pairs arranged not in parallel but in inverted order; from shape of the Greek letter chi (X).

    *It is not the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.

    *We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.

    * I have taken more from alcohol than alcohol has taken from me. –all from Winston Churchill

    Climax: arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in an order of ascending power. Often the last emphatic word in one phrase or clause is repeated as the first emphatic word of the next.

    *One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. Tennyson, Ulysses

    Consonance: The repetition of consonant sounds (with different vowels) in words close to each other. A subset of alliteration.

    ·         Dan and Dean dined at dawn down at the dune.

    Ethos: using credibility to convince, through the character/experience of the author or sources.

    *He is a forensics and ballistics expert for the federal government – if anyone’s qualified to determine the murder weapon, it’s him.

    Ellipsis: In punctuation, an ellipsis is the three dots that indicate a pause or missing words. In rhetoric, it means the deliberate omission of a grammatically required word or phrase that can be inferred. See also brachylogy, asyndeton, zeugma.

    ·         A profound question, that.  (reader must supply the verb “is.”)

    ·         "Later, it does not surprise me to find myself in Miss Mey's shiny black car, sharing the back seat with the other lucky ones. Does not surprise me that I thoroughly enjoy the fair."
    (Alice Walker, "Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self")

    Euphemism: substitution of an agreeable or at least non-offensive expression for one whose plainer meaning might be harsh or unpleasant.

    ·         Dan Foreman: Guys, I feel very terrible about what I'm about to say. But I'm afraid you're both being let go.
    Lou: Let go? What does that mean?
    Dan Foreman: It means you're being fired, Louie.         (In Good Company, 2004)

    ·         Mr. Prince: We'll see you when you get back from Image Enhancement Camp.
    Martin Prince: Spare me your euphemisms! It's fat camp, for Daddy's chubby little secret!
    ("Kamp Krusty," The Simpsons, 1992)

    Hendiadys: use of two words connected by a conjunction, instead of subordinating one to the other, to express a single complex idea.

    ·         It sure is nice and cool today! (for "pleasantly cool")

    ·         I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Psalms 116

    Hypallage: ("exchanging") A figure of speech in which an adjective describes something other than its noun. This includes when using personification, so the adjective describes character or mood rather than the object.

    “I lighted a thoughtful cigarette.” P.J. Wodehouse.

    “His coward lips did from their color fly.” Shakespeare

    Hyperbaton: A figure of speech that uses inverted word order, disruption or interruption for effect.

    ·         “Object there was none. Passion there was none.” Edgar Allen Poe

    ·         Might put the adjective after, rather than before, the noun: “The forest burned with a fire unquenchable.”

    ·         Might put the verb at the end of the sentence instead of between the subject and object: “She wouldn’t to that to that unlikeable man be married”

    Hyperbole: exaggeration for emphasis or for rhetorical effect.

    ·         “My vegetable love should grow/Vaster than empires, and more slow;
    An hundred years should got to praise/Thine eyes and on thine forehead gaze;
    Two hundred to adore each breast,/But thirty thousand to the rest.”

    —Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"

    Hysteron Proteron ("later-earlier"): inversion of the natural sequence of events, often meant to stress the event which, though later in time, is considered the more important.

    ·         Put on your shoes and socks!

    ·         "I'm going to kill that magician. I'll dismember him and then I'll sue him."
    (Woody Allen, "Oedipus Wrecks" in New York Stories, 1989)

    Irony: There are 3 kinds of irony: verbal, situational and dramatic. Each involves a contrast, humorous or poignant, between what is on the surface and what is to be understood. Verbal irony is when one’s words contrast with one’s meaning, or seem humorously self-contradictory. It includes sarcasm.

    ·         “I bet your wife loves the new STD you brought home.”

    ·         "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room." Dr. Strangelove

    Situational irony is when what is expected is the opposite of what happens.

    ·         A meter maid returns to her car and there’s a parking ticket on it.

    ·         A fire station burns down.

    ·         From O. Henry’s “The Gift of  the Magi”: A wife sells her hair to buy her husband a watch; he has sold his watch to buy her a comb.

    Dramatic irony is when, in storytelling, the audience understands something important that a character does not.

    ·         In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo believes Juliet is dead but we know she’s only drugged, adding pathos to him killing himself.

    ·         A character walks into a house in which the audience knows a serial killer is waiting.

    Litotes: understatement, for intensification, by denying the contrary of the thing being affirmed. (Sometimes used synonymously with meiosis.)

    ·         A few unannounced quizzes are not inconceivable.

    ·         War is not healthy for children and other living things.

    ·         One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day. (meiosis)

    Logos: logic used to support a claim (induction and deduction). Refers to the internal consistency of the message—the clarity of the claim, the logic of its reasons, and the effectiveness of its supporting evidence, as well as the facts and statistics used to support the argument.

    ·         "You don’t need to jump off a bridge to know that it’s a bad idea. Why then would you need to try drugs to know if they’re damaging? That’s plain nonsense."

    Metaphor: implied comparison achieved through a figurative use of words; the word is used not in its literal sense, but in one analogous to it.

    ·         “Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage.” Shakespeare, Macbeth

    ·         . . . while he learned the language (that meager and fragile thread . . . by which the little surface corners and edges of men's secret and solitary lives may be joined for an instant now and then before sinking back into the darkness. . . ) Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

    Metonymy: substitution of one word for another which it suggests.

    ·         He is a man of the cloth.

    ·         The pen is mightier than the sword.

    ·         By the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat thy bread.

    Onomatopoeia: use of words to imitate natural sounds; accommodation of sound to sense.

    ·         The tuba blared waaaaaahwahwah.

    Oxymoron: apparent paradox achieved by the juxtaposition of words which seem to contradict one another.

    ·         “I must be cruel only to be kind.” Shakespeare, Hamlet

    ·         jumbo shrimp

    Paradox: an assertion seemingly opposed to common sense, but that may yet have some truth in it.

    ·         “What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.” George Bernard Shaw

    Paraprosdokian: surprise or unexpected ending of a phrase or series.

    ·         “He was at his best when the going was good.” Alistair Cooke on the Duke of Windsor

    ·         “There but for the grace of God—goes God.” Churchill

    Paronomasia: use of similar sounding words; often etymological word-play.

    ·         “...culled cash, or cold cash, and then it turned into a gold cache.” E.L. Doctorow, Billy Bathgate

    ·         “Thou art Peter (Greek petros), and upon this rock (Greek petra) I shall build my church.” Matthew 16

    ·         The dying Mercutio: “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.” Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

    Pathos: emotional or motivational appeals; vivid language, emotional language, sensory details.

    ·         "Where would we be without this tradition? Ever since our forefathers landed at Plymouth Rock, we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving without fail, making more than cherished recipes. We’ve made memories."

    Personification: attribution of personality to an impersonal thing.

    ·         “England expects every man to do his duty.” Lord Nelson

    Pleonasm: use of superfluous or redundant words, often enriching the thought.

    ·         “No one, rich or poor, will be excepted.”

    ·         “I have seen no stranger sight since I was born.”

    Polysyndeton: the repetition of conjunctions in a series of coordinate words, phrases, or clauses.

    ·         “I said, ‘Who killed him?’ and he said, "I don't know who killed him but he's dead all right," and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights and windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside Mango Bay and she was all right only she was full of water.” Hemingway, “After the Storm”

    Praeteritio (=paraleipsis): pretended omission for rhetorical effect.

    ·         “That part of our history detailing the military achievements which gave us our several possessions ... is a theme too familiar to my listeners for me to dilate on, and I shall therefore pass it by.” Thucydides, "Funeral Oration"

    ·         “Let us make no judgment on the events of Chappaquiddick, since the facts are not yet all in.” A political opponent of Senator Edward Kennedy

    Prolepsis: anticipating an act as if it’s already done, or anticipating an argument in order to rebut it.

    ·         “My parents are gonna find out I crashed the car. I’m dead.”

    ·         The flash-forwards of A Christmas Carol in which Ebinezer Scrooge sees his future are a kind of prolepsis.

    Simile: an explicit comparison between two things using 'like' or 'as'.

    ·         My love is as a fever, longing still
    For that which longer nurseth the disease, Shakespeare, Sonnet CXLVII

    Syllepsis: use of a word with two others, with each of which it is understood differently.

    ·         We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately. Benjamin Franklin

    Synecdoche: understanding one thing with another; the use of a part for the whole, or the whole for the part. (A form of metonymy.)

    ·         Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6

    ·         The U.S. won three gold medals. (Instead of, The members of the U.S. boxing team won three gold medals.)

    Synesis (=constructio ad sensum): violating the technically correct agreement between subject and verb or pronoun and antecedent because it makes a kind of sense or logic. A kind of anacoluthon.

    ·         “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” Animal House

    ·         “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6

    ·         “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” Acts 6

    Tautology: repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase, or sentence.

    ·         “With malice toward none, with charity for all.” Lincoln, Second Inaugural

    Understatement: A figure of speech making something seem (or seem to seem) less important than it is. Can be self-deprecation, humorous or unintentional.

    ·         "I am just going outside and may be some time." Captain Lawrence Oates, Antarctic explorer, before walking out into a blizzard that would kill him, 1912)

    Zeugma: two different words linked to a verb or an adjective which is strictly appropriate to only one of them.

    ·         “Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn
    The living record of your memory.”

Last Modified on December 8, 2015