The Phrontistery




Rhetorical Devices

Despite my enormous love of language and the written word, I could never really get into the arcane field of rhetoric. I was the kid in English class who insisted that the distinction between a simile and a metaphor wasn't really that significant. And when it comes to the 160 terms for rhetorical devices listed below, I'll admit that I can't tell my anastrophe from my prothysteron. As you might imagine, most of these terms derive from Greek with a minority from Latin; those folks in antiquity sure knew how to be rhetorical! The definitions below include terms taken from a variety of dictionaries and sources, and inevitably, some of these literary devices overlap to a significant degree or indeed, are synonymous. Anyone who would care to work up some example sentences for all of these would have the eternal gratitude of the Internet.


Word Definition
acatalectichaving complete or full number of syllables in a poetic line
accismusin rhetoric, pretending to refuse something
adynatonrhetorical use of a nearly impossible situation for emphasis
agnominationrhetorical use of similar-sounding words for effect
alogismillogical statement
anacoenosisrhetorical questioning of hearers or opponents for opinions on a matter
anacoluthonmoving to new topic of discussion before finishing current one
anadiplosisrepeating last word of clause at beginning of next clause
analepsisrepetition of a word or phrase for emphasis; pleonasm
anaphorarepetition of a word at beginning of successive phrases for emphasis
anastrophereversing or inverting word order as rhetorical device
antanaclasisrepetition of key word of phrase as a play on words
anthorismcounter-definition; redefinition of opponent's term for rhetorical effect
anthypophorarefuting an objection using a contrary inference
anticlimaxexpression whose last part is decreased in effect from the prior part
antimetabolefigure in which words or phrases are repeated but in inverse order
antimetathesisinversion of the parts of an antithesis
antiphrasisuse of words in a sense opposite to literal
antistropherepetition of words in reverse order
antistrophonturning of opponent's own argument against them
antithesiscontrast of ideas by means of parallel arrangement of words or clauses
antonomasiause of descriptive phrase or epithet instead of proper name
aparithmesisrhetorical answer to a proposition
apodosismain concluding clause in a conditional sentence
apophasissaying something by stating that you will not mention it
aposiopesissuddenly stopping in the middle of a speech for emphasis
apostropheaddressing of a personified thing rhetorically
asteismrefined irony
asyndetonrhetorical device of omitting conjunctions
atticismexpression characterized by conciseness and elegance
auxesisincrease in size; hyperbole or augmentation of meaning
bathosappearance of the commonplace in elevated matter for rhetorical effect
catastasisintroductory part of speech where narrator introduces subject
chiasmuscontrast by parallelism in reverse order
climaxgradual increase in force of rhetorical expressions or drama of a performance
consecutionlogical sequence or progression of an argument
diacoperhetorical separation of a compound word by a third word; tmesis
diallagedevice in which many arguments brought upon one point
dialleluscircular argument
dialogismrhetorical discussion in form of an imaginary dialogue
diaporesisrhetorical expression of uncertainty of which of two options to adopt
diasyrmrhetorical device of condemning through faint praise
diatyposisrhetorically vivid and clear description of a subject
dicaeologydefending oneself in argument by claiming justification
dilemmain rhetoric, forcing a choice between two equally unfavourable choices
dilogyintentional ambiguousness
dinumerationnumbering of rhetorical points one by one
ecboledigression
echolaliaecho-like repetition of another's words
echopraxiaecho-like repetition of another's actions
ecphasisexplicit declaration or interpretation
ecphonesisrhetorical exclamation
ecphrasisplain interpretation of a thing
ekphrasisdescription of a work of art as rhetorical exercise
enantiosisironic expression of idea by refuting its contrary
enthymemerhetorical suppression or omission of a premise
epanadiplosissentence which begins and ends with same word
epanalepsisrepetition
epanaphorarepetition of same word at beginning of multiple phrases or sentences
epanastrophedevice where end of one sentence is repeated as beginning of next
epanodosrecapitulation of chief points in a discourse after digression
epanorthosisretraction of statement in order to intensify it
epexegesisaddition of words to make the sense more clear
epiboledevice of beginning several clauses with same word
epiloguerhetorical conclusion or summary
epiphonemaexclamation, finishing phrase or reflection
epiphorarhetorical repetition of a word at the end of several sentences
epiplexispersuasion through stylized but severe criticism of opponent
epiploceuse of multiple entwined points in succession in an argument
epistropheending of successive clauses with the same word
epitroperhetorical but ironic granting of permission to an opponent to do something
epizeuxisimmediate repetition of a word for emphasis
erotesisrhetorical questioning
ethopoeiadelineation of the character of someone or something
euphemismrhetorical use of a pleasant or favourable form in place of a harsh one
exergasiaremaining on one point of argument while gradually fleshing it out
geminationdoubling of a consonant sound; in rhetoric, repetition of a word or phrase
hendiadysexpression of adjective and noun as two adjectives
heterosisuse of one form of a noun or pronoun in place of another for rhetorical effect
homeoteleutonthe use or occurrence of similar word endings
homoeoptotonuse of series of words sharing the same verb or noun inflections
hypallagefigure in which relations between words are changed
hyperbatonrhetorical device in which word order is reversed
hyperboleimpression by extravagant exaggeration
hypercatalectichaving an extra syllable on the end of a line of verse
hypoboleanticipating and refuting objections to an argument
hypophorastatement of an opponent's probable but as yet unstated objection
hypostrophereturn to primary argument after digression
hypotyposisvivid description of a scene
hysteron proteronin rhetoric, putting first what normally comes last
ischiorrhogicof an iambic line, having spondees in the second, fourth or sixth place
lemmapreliminary proposition, theme, argument or headword
litotesunderstatement by affirming using negation of the contrary
macrologymuch talk with little to say; redundancy; pleonasm
meiosisunderstatement of size or importance for rhetorical effect
merismrhetorical device of contrasting two parts of a whole
mesozeugmaplacement of a word referring to two different clauses between them
metabasistransition; transfer; in rhetoric, movement from one topic to another
metalepsismetonymy of a double or indirect kind
metaphorfigurative transfer of qualities from one object or event to another
metaphraseturning of prose into verse or vice versa
metastasisremoval from one place to another; rapid transition in argument
metonymyfigurative use of word to name an attribute of its subject
mimesisrhetorical imitation of another's words or mannerisms
mycterismsneering; rhetorical sarcasm or irony
noemastating something obscurely, forcing listeners to work it out
oxymoronfigure of speech combining contradictory terms
palillogyrepetition of a word or word or phrase
parabolarhetorical use of simile or metaphor
paradiastoledescription of an unfavourable quality through a favourable synonym
paradigmarhetorical comparison by resemblance to another thing
paraenesisrhetorical expression of advice or warning
paragramplay on words in which letters are changed
paralipsisfixing attention on subject by pretending to neglect it
paranomasiarhetorical art of punning
parathesisapposition; compounding of words without change
parecbasisrhetorical digression or deviation from expected topic
paregmenonrepetition of a word or its cognates in a series of words
paremboleinsertion of something related to the subject into a phrase
paremptosisinsertion of something related to the subject into a phrase
parisoneven balance of elements in a sentence
paroemiaproverb or adage used in argumentation
paromoionstarting statement with several words starting with the same letter
paromologiapartial admission of opponent's argument to strengthen one's final position
parrhesiaasking forgiveness in advance for frank or bold speech
pathopoeiaexcitation of passion by rhetoric or poetry
periergiause of elevated style to discuss a trivial matter
periphrasiscircumlocution; round-about expression
perissologyverbiage; pleonasm
pleonasmredundancy; use of more words than necessary
plocerepetition of word in more expressive sense for emphasis
polyptotonrepetition of word in same sentence with multiple inflectional endings
polysyndetonrhetorical device of repeating conjunction for emphasis
preteritionpassing over or omission; drawing attention to a thing by claiming to omit it
procatalepsisanticipating and answering an opponent's objections
prolepsisanticipation; device where objections are anticipated
pronominationdescription of a thing by its qualities rather than its proper name
prosopopoeiapersonification; representation of absent person as speaking
protasisfirst clause in a conditional expression; introductory part of a play
prothysteronputting last what normally comes first in an expression or argument
protozeugmazeugma in which word referring to two clauses is placed before both of them
schesisderiding opponent's argument by referring to his way of thought
similecomparison of two things
soritesstring of statements where end of one is subject of next
superjectionexaggeration; hyperbole
syllepsisfigure where word related to two others differently
syllogismargument in which two premises lead to a logical conclusion
symplocerepetition of word at start of one and end of next clause
synchoresisconcession made for the sake of more effective retort
synchysisconfusion of meaning due to unusual arrangement
syncrisiscomparison of diverse or contradictory things
syndetonphrase whose parts are joined by a conjunction
synecdochepart used to refer to whole or vice versa
synoeciosisrhetorical figure of coupling opposites
tapinosisuse of degrading or diminutive diction regarding a topic
tmesisseparation of word into parts by an intervening word
tropeany figure of speech; figurative language
tuismapostrophe; reference to or regard to a second person
zeugmause of a word to modify two or more words in different ways


I hope you have found this site to be useful. If you have any corrections, additions, or comments, please contact me. Please note that I am not able to respond to all requests. Please consult a major dictionary before e-mailing your query. All material on this page © 1996-2014 Stephen Chrisomalis. Links to this page may be made without permission.

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