A Glossary of Rhetorical Terms
with Examples * ;
re-edited and completed with Examples in German by Wolfgang Näser
(Marburg, 11.7.97 ff.)
By the great might of figures (which is no other thing than wisdom speaking
eloquently), the orator may lead his hearers which way he lists, and draw
them to what affection he will; he may make them to be angry, to be pleased,
to laugh, to weep, and lament; to love, to abhor, and loathe; to hope,
to fear, to covet; to be satisfied, to envy, to have pity and compassion;
to marvel, to believe, to repent; and briefly to be moved with any affection
that shall serve best for his purpose. --Henry Peacham, The Garden of
Note: There are a few links below to Perseus. To see the figures in
question, you'll often need to examine the Greek versions of these texts.
- 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
- *Viri validis cum viribus luctant. Ennius
- *Veni, vidi, vici. Julius Caesar
- World Wide Web
- In diesen heiligen Hallen
- Milch macht müde Männer munter
- 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
- 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
- *Senatus haec intellegit, consul videt; hic tamen vivit. Vivit?
Immo vero etiam in senatum venit. Cicero, In Catilinam
- Sie wünschen mir viel Freude? Freude werde ich an
diesem Amt ganz bestimmt nicht haben.
- Anaphora: the repetition
of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses or
- *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.
- *Nihil agis, nihil moliris, nihil cogitas, quod non ego non
modo audiam, sed etiam videam planeque sentiam. Cicero, In Catilinam
- *Lysias, Against
- *Demosthenes, On
the Crown 48
- Rama dama - rama woima - rama miasma (bair.)
- 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
- *Isdem in oppidis, Cicero
- *Demosthenes, On
the Crown 13
- 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
- *Aeschines, Against
- 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
- *Demosthenes, Olynthiac
- 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
- *Demosthenes, On
the Crown 129
- Aposiopesis: a form of ellipse
by which a speaker comes to an abrupt halt, seemingly overcome by passion
(fear, excitement, etc.) or modesty.
- *Demosthenes, On
the Crown 3
- 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 sound in words close to each other.
- *Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
- *O fortunatam natam me consule Romam! Cicero, de consulatu
- Asyndeton: lack of conjunctions
between coordinate phrases, clauses, or words.
- *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
- *Demosthenes, On
the Crown 200
- Brachylogy: a general term
for 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.
- *Aeolus haec contra: Vergil, Aeneid
- *Non Cinnae, non Sullae longa dominatio. Tacitus, Annales I.1
- Cacophony: harsh joining
- *We want no parlay with you and your grisly gang who work your
wicked will. W. Churchill
- *O Tite tute Tati tibi tanta tyranne tulisti! Ennius
- Catachresis: a harsh metaphor
involving the use of a word beyond its strict sphere.
- *I listen vainly, but with thirsty ear. MacArthur, Farewell
- *Cynthia prima suis miserum me cepit ocellis. Propertius I.1.1
- Chiasmus: two corresponding
pairs arranged not in parallels (a-b-a-b) but in inverted order (a-b-b-a);
from shape of the Greek letter chi (X).
- *Those gallant men will remain often in my thoughts and in my
prayers always. MacArthur
- *Renown'd for conquest, and in council skill'd. Addison et pacis
ornamenta et subsidia belli. Cicero, Pro lege Manilia
- *Plato, Republic
- 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
- *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
- *Nonne hunc in vincula duci, non ad mortem rapi, non summo supplicio
mactari imperabis? Cicero, In Catilinam
- *Facinus est vincere civem Romanum; scelus verberare; prope
parricidium necare: quid dicam in crucem tollere? verbo satis digno tam
nefaria res appellari nullo modo potest. Cicero, In Verrem
- *Demosthenes, On
the Crown 179
- Euphemism: substitution
of an agreeable or at least non-offensive expression for one whose plainer
meaning might be harsh or unpleasant.
- *When the final news came, there would be a ring at the front
door -- a wife in this situation finds herself staring at the front door
as if she no longer owns it or controls it--and outside the door would
be a man... come to inform her that unfortunately something has happened
out there, and her husband's body now lies incinerated in the swamps or
the pines or the palmetto grass, "burned beyond recognition,"
which anyone who had been around an air base very long (fortunately Jane
had not) realized was quite an artful euphemism to describe a human body
that now looked like an enormous fowl that has burned up in a stove, burned
a blackish brown all over, greasy and blistered, fried, in a word, with
not only the entire face and all the hair and the ears burned off, not
to mention all the clothing, but also the hands and feet, with what remains
of the arms and legs bent at the knees and elbows and burned into absolutely
rigid angles, burned a greasy blackish brown like the bursting body itself,
so that this husband, father, officer, gentleman, this ornamentum of some
mother's eye, His Majesty the Baby of just twenty-odd years back, has been
reduced to a charred hulk with wings and shanks sticking out of it. Tom
Wolfe, The Right Stuff
- 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.
- *Perfecti oratoris moderatione et sapientia. Cicero, De oratore
- Hypallage: ("exchanging")
transferred epithet; grammatical agreement of a word with another word
which it does not logically qualify. More common in poetry.
- *Exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius, Horace, Odes III.30
- Hyperbaton: separation of
words which belong together, often to emphasize the first of the separated
words or to create a certain image.
- *Speluncam Dido dux et Troianus eandem Vergil, Aeneid 4.124,
- 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"
- *Da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
Dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
Deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum. Catullus, to his.
- 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!
- *Hannibal in Africam redire atque Italia decedere coactus est.
Cicero, In Catilinam
- Irony: expression of something
which is contrary to the intended meaning; the words say one thing but
- *Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
- 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)
- Sie war nicht unintelligent, dennoch wurde sie nicht
- Das ist gar nicht so dumm, was du uns da sagst.
- 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!
- *From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron
curtain has descended across the continent. W. Churchill
- Dafür habe ich keine Antenne.
- Salonlöwen haben hier keine Chance.
- 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.
- Er spürte den kalten Stahl im Rücken, dann wurde er
ohnmächtig (Material für Gegenstand)
- Die Gemeinde zählte zweitausend Seelen (Teil für das
Ganze, pars pro toto)
- Onomatopoeia: use of words
to imitate natural sounds; accommodation of sound to sense.
- *At tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit. Ennius
- Oxymoron: apparent paradox
achieved by the juxtaposition of words which seem to contradict one another.
- *Festina lente.
- *I must be cruel only to be kind. Shakespeare, Hamlet
- 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
- 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
- *Laudandus, ornandus, tollendus. Cicero on Octavian
- 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
- *Hic est sepulcrum haud pulchrum feminae pulchrae.
- Personification: attribution
of personality to an impersonal thing.
- *England expects every man to do his duty. Lord Nelson
- *Nunc te patria, quae communis est parens omnium nostrum, odit
ac metuit et iam diu nihil te iudicat nisi de parricidio suo cogitare.
Cicero, In Catilinam
- Computer sind auch nur Menschen.
- Der Motor streikt schon wieder, er scheint heute genauso
wenig Lust zu haben wie ich.
- Mein Ferrari benimmt sich mal wieder zickig.
- Pleonasm: use of superfluous
or redundant words, often enriching the thought.
- *No one, rich or poor, will be excepted.
- *Ears pierced while you wait!
- *I have seen no stranger sight since I was born.
- Dies ist gewissermaßen quasi ein exemplarisches Beispiel
für kooperative Zusammenarbeit.
- 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
- *omnia Mercurio similis, vocemque coloremque
et crinis flavos et membra decora iuventae Vergil, Aeneid 4.558-9
- *Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum
tempus umquam revertitur, nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Cicero, De senectute
- 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,
- *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: the anticipation,
in adjectives or nouns, of the result of the action of a verb; also, the
positioning of a relative clause before its antecedent.
- *Vixi et quem dederat cursum fortuna peregi, Vergil, Aeneid
- *Consider the lilies of the field how they grow.
- 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
- *Reason is to faith as the eye to the telescope. D. Hume [?]
- *Let us go then, you and I,
While the evening is spread out against the sky,
Like a patient etherized upon a table... T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J.
- 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.
- Synchysis: interlocked word
- *aurea purpuream subnectit fibula vestem Vergil, Aeneid 4.139
- 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
- *I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
- *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):
the agreement of words according to logic, and not by the grammatical form;
a kind of anacoluthon.
- *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
- 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.
*Longa tibi exsilia et vastum maris aequor arandum. Vergil, Aeneid
Ich heiße Peter Frankenfeld und Sie herzlich willkommen.
This glossary came my way in graduate school at the University of Texas.
Chris Renaud gave it to me, and she tells me it originated with Ernest
Ament of Wayne State University. I have since used it from time to time
in classes and I have added a couple of examples. -- Ross
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