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Principal Rhetorical Tropes and Literary Devices used in Latin

1. alliteration: repetition of the same letter at beginning of words or syllables:

Marcus me momordit.

2. anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase for emphasis:

non feram, non sinam, non patiar

3. anastrophe: inversion of usual word order (e.g., preposition after the word it governs)

te propter vivo (instead of the expected propter te vivo)

4. aposiopesis: breaking off in the middle of a sentence

quem ego.... sed non possum pergere. ("Whom I.... But I cannot go on.")

5. apostrophe: addressing a person who is not present

O maiores, quid diceretis de hac re? ("Oh ancestors, what would you say about this matter?")

6. asyndeton: omission of conjunctions

videt, sentit, scit

7. chiasmus: "abba" arrangement of words

magnas urbes oppida parva (adjective, noun, noun, adjective)

8. ellipsis: omission of words

Dixit me inventum. ("He said I had been found." esse is missing).

9. hendiadys: use of two nouns together to express a noun modified by an adjective

luctus et labor (meaning "grievous toil")

10. hyperbole: exaggeration

Catilina est mons vitiorum. ("Catiline is a mountain of vices.")

11. hysteron proteron: placing first what the reader might expect to come last

mortuus est et hostem inruit ("He died and he rushed against the enemy")

12. litotes: use of a negative to express a strong positive

Haud stultus erat Cicero. ("Cicero was very intelligent").

13. metaphor: expression of meaning through an image

Horatius est lux litterarum Latinarum. ("Horace is the light of Latin literature.")

14. metonymy: substitution of one word for another that it suggests

Neptunus me terret (to mean, "the sea frightens me").

15. onomatopoeia: use of words that sound like their meaning

Murmurant multi (the "m"’s produce the sound of murmuring).

16. oxymoron: use of an apparent contradiction

parvum monstrum

17. personification: attribution of human characteristics to something not human

Ipsa saxa dolent. ("The rocks themselves grieve")

18. pleonasm: use of superfluous words

Oculis me videt. ("She sees me with her eyes.")

19. polysyndeton: use of many conjunctions

et videt et sentit et scit

20. prolepsis (anticipation): use of a word sooner than it would logically appear

submersis obruit puppis ("he overwhelms the sunken ships").

21. simile: comparison using a word like sicut, similis, or velut.

Volat sicut avis. ("He flies like a bird.")

22. synecdoche: use of part to express a whole

Prora in portam navigavit. ("The ship sailed into the harbor." prora [prow] for navis [ship]).

23. tmesis: the separation of a compound word into two parts

saxo cere comminuit brum (for saxo cerebrum comminuit; "He smashed his brain with a rock.").

24. tricolon crescens: combination of three elements, increasing in size

non ferar, non patiar, non tolerabo

25. zeugma: use of one word in two different senses simultaneously

Aeneas tulit dolorem et patrem Troia. (Aeneas carried grief and his father from Troy).

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Last update March 25, 1999. This site was re-created September 1998 by Ginny Lindzey, Webmistress, Texas Classical Association. To report problems  please contact Ginny at ginlindzey@lindzey.us