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Figures, Tropes, and Other Rhetorical Terms

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These lists are intended to help you identify figures, tropes, and other rhetorical strategies and devices. The terms in our Tool Kit for Rhetorical Analysis have been organized into eight broad, overlapping categories:

This organizational scheme has been adapted from the one used by Richard A. Lanham in A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd edition (University of California Press, 1991).

Clicking on a term will take you to a glossary page. There you will find the definition and several examples of the term as well as its etymology (which shows where the word came from) and a sound file (so that you'll know how to pronounce the term).


Amplification Strategies

  • accumulation
    Figure of speech in which a speaker or a writer gathers scattered points and lists them together.

  • amplification
    General term for all of the ways that an argument, an explanation, or a description can be expanded and enriched.

  • apophasis
    The mention of something in disclaiming intention of mentioning it--or pretending to deny what is really affirmed.

  • apposition
    Placing side-by-side two coordinate elements, the second of which serves as an explanation or modification of the first.

  • Asiatic
    A prolix or highly ornamented style.

  • auxesis
    A gradual increase in intensity of meaning with words arranged in ascending order of force or importance.

  • commoratio
    Repetition of a point several times in different words.

  • copia
    Expansive richness as a stylistic goal.

  • distinctio
    Explicit references to various meanings of a word--usually for the purpose of removing ambiguities.

  • effectio
    Personal description; a head-to-toe inventory of a person's physical attributes or charms.

  • enargia
    A visually powerful description that vividly recreates something or someone in words.

  • epexegesis
    Adding words or phrases to further clarify or specify a statement already made.

  • epicrisis
    Circumstance in which a speaker quotes a passage and comments on it.

  • epimone
    Frequent repetition of a phrase or question; dwelling on a point.

  • euphuism
    Elaborately patterned prose style.

  • paralepsis
    Emphasizing a point by seeming to pass over it.

  • paraphrase
    A restatement of a text or passage in another form or other words, often to clarify meaning.

  • parenthesis
    The insertion of some verbal unit in a position that interrupts the normal syntactic flow of the sentence.

  • pleonasm
    Redundancy; use of words to emphasize what is clear without them.

  • synathroesmus
    The piling up of adjectives, often in the spirit of invective.
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