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Tool Kit for Rhetorical Analysis

Brief definitions of 130 figures of speech and other rhetorical terms with links to expanded discussions and examples.

Coyness: a form of irony in which a person feigns a lack of interest in something that he or she actually desires.

Accumulation is a figure of speech in which a speaker or writer gathers scattered points and lists them together.

Allegory is the extension of a metaphor so that objects, persons, and actions in a text are equated with meanings that lie outside the text.

Alliteration is the repetition of an initial consonant sound.

An allusion is a brief, usually indirect reference to a person, place, or event--real or fictional.

Ambiguity is the presence of two or more possible meanings in a single passage.

Amplification is a rhetorical term for all the ways that an argument, an explanation, or a description can be expanded and enriched.

Anadiplosis is the repetition of the last word or phrase of one line or clause to begin the next.

analogy (rhetoric)
An analogy is reasoning or arguing from parallel cases.

Anaphora is a rhetorical term for the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or verses.

In rhetoric, anticipation is a general name for an argumentative strategy whereby a speaker or writer foresees and replies to objections.

Anticlimax is an abrupt shift from a noble tone to a less exalted one--often for comic effect.

Rejecting an argument because of its insignificance, error, or wickedness.

Antithesis is the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases.

Substitution of a title, epithet, or descriptive phrase for a proper name (or of a personal name for a common name) to designate a member of a group or class.

(1) A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion. (2) A brief statement of a principle.

Aporia is a figure of speech in which the speaker expresses real or simulated doubt or perplexity.

Aposiopesis is a rhetorical term for an unfinished thought or broken sentence.

apostrophe (figure of speech)
Rhetorical apostrophe is a figure of speech in which some absent or nonexistent person or thing is addressed as if present and capable of understanding.

Apposition is the placement side-by-side of two coordinate elements, the second of which serves to identify or rename the first.

Arrangement refers to the parts of a speech or the structure of a text.

Assonance is the repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds in neighboring words.

Asyndeton is the omission of conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses (opposite of "polysyndeton").

Auxesis is a gradual increase in intensity of meaning with words arranged in ascending order of force or importance.

A litany of abuse--a series of critical epithets, descriptions, or attributes.

An adverbial construction used to support a claim or express a viewpoint more assertively and convincingly.

Direct exposure of an adversary's faults.

Chiasmus is a verbal pattern in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first but with the parts reversed.

A sarcastic reply that mocks an opponent, leaving him or her without an answer.

Mounting by degrees through words or sentences of increasing weight and in parallel construction with an emphasis on the high point or culmination of a series of events.

A commonplace is any statement or bit of knowledge that is commonly shared among a given audience or a community.

Repetition of a point several times in different words.

In rhetoric, confirmation is the main part of a speech or text in which logical arguments in support of a position are elaborated.

Concession is an argumentative strategy by which a speaker or writer concedes a disputed point or leaves a disputed point to the audience or reader to decide.

Connotation refers to the emotional implications and associations that a word may carry.

Copia refers to expansive richness as a stylistic goal.

A crot is a verbal bit or fragment used as an autonomous unit without transitional devices.

Deduction is a method of reasoning in which a conclusion follows necessarily from the stated premises.

Dehortatio is a rhetorical term for dissuasive advice given with authority.

deliberative rhetoric
Speech or writing that attempts to persuade an audience to take (or not to take) some action.

Delivery is one of the five traditional parts or canons of rhetoric, concerned with control of voice and gestures.

demonstrative rhetoric
See epideictic: persuasion that deals with values that bring a group together; the rhetoric of ceremony, commemoration, declamation, demonstration, play, and display.

Denotation is the direct or dictionary meaning of a word, in contrast to its figurative or associated meanings.

Diacope is a rhetorical term for repetition broken up by one or more intervening words.

Diatyposis is a rhetorical term for recommending useful precepts or advice to someone else. Diatyposis also means a compact expression of enargia.

Distinctio is a rhetorical term for explicit references to various meanings of a word--usually for the purpose of removing ambiguities.

Substitution of a more offensive or disparaging word or phrase for one considered less offensive.

effictio (or effectio)
Effictio is a rhetorical term for a detailed personal description; a head-to-toe inventory of a person's physical attributes or charms.

Ellipsis is the omission of one or more words, which must be supplied by the listener or reader.

In rhetoric, encomium is a tribute or eulogy in prose or verse glorifying people, objects, ideas, or events.

An informally stated syllogism with an implied premise.

Epanalepsis is a rhetorical term for repetition at the end of a clause or sentence of the word or phrase with which it began.

Epicrisis is a rhetorical term for a circumstance in which a speaker quotes a passage and comments on it.

epideictic rhetoric
Speech or writing that praises or blames.

Epimone is a rhetorical term for the frequent repetition of a phrase or question; dwelling on a point.

Epiphora is repetition of a word or phrase at the end of several clauses.

Asking questions to reproach rather than to elicit answers.

Epithet is a rhetorical term for an adjective (or adjective phrase) used to characterize a person or thing.

Epizeuxis is a rhetorical term for the repetition of a word for emphasis (usually with no words in between).

Erotesis is a rhetorical question implying strong affirmation or denial.

Putting oneself in place of another so as to both understand and express his or her feelings more vividly.

Persuasive appeal based on the projected character of the speaker or narrator.

Euphemism is the substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit.

Euphuism is an elaborately patterned prose style.

Facts, documentation, or testimony used to strengthen a claim or reach a conclusion.

An exordium is the introductory part of an argument in which a speaker or writer establishes credibility (ethos) and announces the subject and purpose of the discourse.

Emotional utterance that seeks to move hearers to a like feeling.

A fable is a short narrative meant to teach a moral lesson.

figures of speech
The figures of speech are the various uses of language (such as metaphor, metonymy, hyperbole, and chiasmus) that depart from customary construction, order, or significance.

Gradatio is a rhetorical term for a sentence construction in which the last word(s) of one clause becomes the first of the next, through three or more clauses.

An extravagant statement; the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or heightened effect.

Hypophora is the rhetorical strategy of raising questions and then answering them.

Hypotaxis is a rhetorical term for the arrangement of phrases or clauses in a dependent or subordinate relationship.

identification (rhetoric)
In rhetoric, identification refers to any of the wide variety of means by which an author may establish a shared sense of values, attitudes, and interests with his or her readers.

Method of reasoning by which a rhetor collects a number of instances and forms a generalization that is meant to apply to all instances.

Invective is denunciatory or abusive language; discourse that casts blame on somebody or something.

In rhetoric, invention is the discovery of the resources for persuasion inherent in any given rhetorical problem.

Irony refers to the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. Likewise, irony may refer to a statement or situation where the meaning is directly contradicted by the appearance or presentation of the idea.

Isocolon is a rhetorical term for a succession of phrases or clauses of approximately equal length and corresponding structure.

judicial rhetoric
Speech or writing that considers the justice or injustice of a certain charge or accusation.

The opportune time and/or place, the right time to say or do the right thing.

Litotes is a figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.

In classical rhetoric, the means of persuasion by demonstration of the truth, real or apparent.

To belittle, use a degrading epithet, often through a trope of one word; rhetorical understatement.

One of the traditional five parts or canons of rhetoric, that which considers methods and devices to aid and improve the memory.

A metaphor is an implied comparison between two unlike things that actually have something important in common.

Metonymy is a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated (such as "crown" for "royalty").

Narratio is the part of an argument in which a speaker or writer provides a narrative account of what has happened and explains the nature of the case.

Onomatopoeia is the formation or use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which incongruous or seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side.

A parable is a short and simple story that illustrates a lesson.

A statement that appears to contradict itself.

Emphasizing a point by seeming to pass over it. See apophasis.

Parallelism is the similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses.

Parataxis is a rhetorical term for phrases or clauses arranged independently: a coordinate, rather than a subordinate, construction.

(1) Either or both of the upright curved lines, ( ), used to mark off explanatory or qualifying remarks in writing. (2) The insertion of a verbal unit that interrupts the normal flow of the sentence.

Pathos is the means of persuasion in classical rhetoric that appeals to the audience's emotions.

periodic sentence
A periodic sentence is a long and frequently involved sentence, marked by suspended syntax, in which the sense is not completed until the final word--usually with an emphatic climax.

In rhetoric, the peroration is the closing part of an argument.

Persona is a voice or mask that an author or speaker puts on for a particular purpose.

Personification is a figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities.

Ploce is a rhetorical term for the repetition of a word or name, often with a different sense, after the intervention of one or more other words.

Polyptoton is the repetition of words derived from the same root but with different endings.

Polysyndeton is a sentence style that employs a great many conjunctions (opposite of "asyndeton").

(1) Foreseeing and forestalling objections in various ways. (2) Figurative device by which a future event is presumed to have already occurred.

A proverb is a short, pithy statement of a general truth, one that condenses common experience into memorable form.

A pun is a play on words, sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words.

Refutation is the part of an argument wherein a speaker or writer anticipates and counters opposing points of view.

(1) A speaker or writer. (2) A teacher of rhetoric.

Rhetoric is the study and practice of effective communication.

rhetorical canons
In classical rhetoric, the rhetorical canons are the five overlapping offices or divisions of the rhetorical process.

rhetorical question
A rhetorical question is a question asked merely for effect with no answer expected.

rhetorical situation
The rhetorical situation is the context of a rhetorical act; minimally, made up of a rhetor, an issue, and an audience.

running style
Running style is a sentence style that appears to follow the mind as it worries a problem through, "mimicking the "rambling, associative syntax of conversation."

In English grammar and rhetoric, a series is a list of three or more items, usually arranged in parallel form.

A simile is a stated comparison (usually formed with "like" or "as") between two fundamentally dissimilar things that have certain qualities in common.

Sprezzatura is the rehearsed spontaneity, the studied carelessness, the well-practiced naturalness that lies at the center of convincing discourse of any sort.

Narrowly interpreted as those figures that ornament speech or writing; broadly, as representing a manifestation of the person speaking or writing.

A form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.

Synecdoche is a figure of speech is which a part is used to represent the whole or the whole for a part.

Tapinosis is a rhetorical term for undignified language that debases a person or thing.

The tenor is the underlying idea or the principal subject that is the meaning of a metaphor.

A person's account of an event or state of affairs.

tetracolon climax
A tetracolon climax is a series of four members.

Tricolon is a rhetorical term for a series of three parallel words, phrases, or clauses.

A trope is a rhetorical device that produces a shift in the meaning of words--traditionally contrasted with a "scheme," which changes only the shape of a phrase.

Figure of speech in which a writer deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is.

In a metaphor, the figure itself. A metaphor carries two ideas: the vehicle and the tenor, or underlying idea.

Voice is the quality of a verb that indicates whether its subject acts (active voice) or is acted upon (passive voice).

Zeugma is a rhetorical term for the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words although its use may be grammatically or logically correct with only one.

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