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Style is the third canon of rhetoric. The purposes of style are to direct the memory and emotions of the audience through controlling the pace, emphasis, and sound of speech. In addition to the levels or magnifications of style, the ancients identified many specific stylistic devices, generally dividing figures of speech into tropes and schemes. Included on these pages are a number of tropes and schemes that are of use to the Goddess and her acolytes. Some of them are drawn from the books and external links cited here, others are unique to this wiki. If you add an example that is from a published list of rhetorical devices or literary terms please include the link or reference if it is not already listed.


A trope is a substitution of terms, a play on sound and meaning of single terms in a sentence, and is therefore semantic in nature, as opposed to schemes which are syntactic. Tropes may be considered to have three axes: tenor, which is the "held" or ground of meaning of the trope; tangent, which is the figure substituted for the held meaning or tenor; and target, which is the subject or audience to which the pairing of tenor and tangent point. For instance: in the simile, "my love is like a red red rose".. a simile being a metaphor that's spelled out with both tenor and tangent uttered in the sentence.. "love" would be the tenor, "rose" the tangent, and the target is the idea in the mind of the hearer who applies the qualities of a rose to love; its sweetness and its momentary timeliness.

The Four Master TropesEdit

The four Master Tropes were first identified by Vico, and more recently by Kenneth Burke and Northrop Frye. These thinkers and others consider them as more than just simple substitutions, rather they rise to become thematics for world building (organizing experience around a set of interconnected symbols).


The broadest of the tropes, a metaphor is a substitution of any dissimilar terms.  See more on metaphor here .

ex: "Time is a thief"

ex: "Her eyes were fireflies" 

ex: "Love is a garden."


Metonym or metonymy is the next broadest category of trope.  A metonym is a substitution of terms where there is some causal or proximal relationship between the two terms.

ex: Crown - in place of a royal person

ex: The pen is mightier than the sword. (pen refers to written words and sword to military force)


Synedoche is a type of metonym where the relationship between the term and its substitute is one of part for whole or whole for part. It corresponds to the topoi of Genus and Species.

ex: The word “sails” refers to a whole ship

ex: The word "suits" refer to businessmen

ex: The word "Five-0" refers to a policeman


The trope of irony is a substitution of a term that states the opposite of the intended meaning.  It corresponds to the topoi of contraries and contradictories. Irony occurs when the vehicle is the opposite of the tenor.

ex: "I am not a crook." This was an unintended irony by Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate controversy. Much of the national audience heard this and laughed because they knew by then that the truth was the opposite of his meaning.

ex. " I love every human being on this earth". This could be irony from a white store owner refusing to let African Americans into his shop in the 1950's.

Tropes of DegreeEdit

Amplification.  Using more words than necessary to state or describe something.

ex: Instead of saying "I think I am getting sick" you say "I think I’m getting sick—I’ve been experiencing terrible headaches and drainage, and I’ve just begun to develop a sore throat as well."

Hyperbole:  Exaggerated statements for effect that are not to be taken literally.

ex: "I've told you a million times"

ex: "She is going to die of embarrassment"

ex. " You are going to die of laughter"

Litotes: Understatement, often using a negative, as in saying "not bad" when "well done" is meant.

ex: The food was not too bad.

Meiosis: Understatement for effect using a diminishing name for something in order to reduce its importance.

ex: "I am a very foolish, old man."

Characterizations Edit

Periphrasis // Antonomasia: The substitution of a descriptive phrase for a proper name, or the reverse.

Personification: Referring to abstract ideas or objects as if they had human qualities.

ex: The flowers danced in the wind.

ex: "The wind howled in the night."

ex. " The stars looked at me with a fierce gaze"

Plays on Logic Edit

Rhetorical Question: Substituting the question for the answer (when the answer is known to the audience or obvious); or asking a question for some purpose other than obtaining the answer.

ex: "Is all Judeo-Christian tradition wrong" - Ronald Reagan, Evil Empire Address

Plays on the Sounds of Words Edit


A scheme is a play on the order of words in a sentence, and is therefore syntactic in nature.

Symmetrical Clauses / ParallelismsEdit

Anadiplosis: Ending one clause and beginning the next with the same word or words. Repetition on the "inner walls" of the clause or clauses.

Example: "The mountains look on Marathon - and Marathon looks on the sea" - Lord Byron, The Isles of Greece

Example: "The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time." - Thomas Jefferson

Example: "If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants." -William Penn

Anaphora: beginning consecutive clauses with the same word or words.

Example: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...." - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Example: "They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served us all".-Ronald Reagan, Address on the Challenge Disaster

Example "We can grow food to feed our own people. We can raise cattle and use the hides, the leather, and the wool to clothe our people. We can dig the clay from the earth and make bricks to build homes for our people. We can turn the trees into lumber and furnish the homes for our own people." - Malcolm X, Racial Separation

Antithesis : a complex that is both tropical and schematic.  It expresses something by juxtaposing two contrasting or opposed ideas (trope), usually with balanced, symmetrical or parallel clauses (scheme). See more with examples on the Antithesis page.

Example: "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n." - John Milton, Paradise Lost. This example show the contrasting ideas of both "reign" and "serve".

Example: "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints" - Billy Joel, Only The Good Die Young

Apposition: two phrases side by side that mirror one another grammatically, each occupying the same part of speech in the sentence.  Often done by means of asyndeton.

Example: Placing the words "machine", "sassy", "glassy", and "sinner" together in a sentence because they have similar grammatical sounds.

Example: "Mr. Knightley, a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty, was not only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it, as the elder brother of Isabella’s husband." Emma, Jane Austen ("a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty")

Chiasmus / Antimetabole : The beginning of the first clause repeats at the end of the second; the end of the first clause repeats at the beginning of the second; forming an X  or "chi" pattern, hence "chiasmus."

Example: Never let a fool kiss you or a kiss fool you.

Climax: a series of synonyms or parallel terms in increasing order of intensity.

Example: "These are the boys. These are the men. These are the champions. These are the heroes."-Ronald Reagan --> This is climax when you look at the progressing order from boys to heroes.

Epanalepsis: Beginning one clause and ending the same clause, or the next clause, with the same word or words. Repetition on the "outer walls" of the clause or clauses.

Example: "Next time there won't be a next time."

Epistrophe / Homoioteleuton: Ending consecutive clauses with the same word or words; or similar for homoioteleuton.

Example: "We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers" - Ronald Reagan, Challenger

Gradatio: Anadiplosis plus climax yields the classic gradatio, or "staircase parallel"; a series of clauses in progressive order of intensity or logic, with the ending of each clause repeated in the beginning of the next. Ex: "For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost, for want of a rider the battle was lost, and all for the want of a horseshoe nail." Mother Goose.

Isocolon: A series of grammatical clauses with parallel parts of speech but no repeated words.

Example:  “Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered). -Julius Caesar

Syncrisis: See Antithesis : A figure of speech in which opposite things or persons are compared.

Unusual Word Order

Asyndeton: omission of a conjunction where a conjunction is grammatically required.

Example: "This is the villain among you who deceived you, who cheated you, who meant to betray you completely.." - Aristotle

Polysyndeton: Adding conjunctions where they are not grammatically required.

Example: "Let the whitefolks have their money and power and segregation and sarcasm and big houses and schools and lawns like carpets, and books, and mostly--mostly--let them have their whiteness." - Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Cages Birds Sing.

Plays on SoundEdit

Paranomasia: Playing with words:

"A good farmer is nothing more nor less than a handyman with a sense of humor."

Alliteration: When a series of words have the same constant sound:

ex: "Alice’s aunt ate apples and acorns around August."

ex: "Helplessly hoping her harlequin hovers nearby" - Helplessly Hoping, Crosby, Stills, and Nash

Onomatopoeia: The structure of a word from its sound associated by its name, Words related to water:

1) Bloop

2) Splash

3) Spray

4) Pow

5) Bang

External Links Edit

Literary Devices: Definition and Examples of Literary Terms

Silva Rhetoricae

General Sources on StyleEdit

Burke, Kenneth. "Appendix D: Four Master Tropes." A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969. 503-517.

Corbett, Edward P. J. and Robert J. Connors. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. 4th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1957.

Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Pepper, Stephen C. World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence. Berkeley: U of California P, 1948.

White, Hayden V. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1973.