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date: 29 February 2020

(p. 773) Glossary of Greek and Latin Rhetorical Terms1

(p. 773) Glossary of Greek and Latin Rhetorical Terms1


  • Abominatio

    (L. “loathing”; rejectio, detestatio; Gk. bdelygmia, apodioxis). An expression of disgust or hatred: “What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word / as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee” (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet 1.1.69–70). See apodioxis.

  • Abusio

    (L. “misuse”; Gk. catachrēsis; Eng. “the Figure of Abuse” [Putt. = Puttenham 2007]). The use of words outside their proper context, common usage, or standard grammatical function: “I fear ’tis deepest winter in Lord Timon’s purse” (Timon of Athens 3.4.15).

  • Accumulatio

    (L. “piling up”; frequentatio). Assembling the main points of an argument and restating them for emphasis.

  • Accusatio

    (L. “accusation,” “charge,” “formal indictment”; criminis reprehensio; Gk. catēgoria). Leveling a charge or accusation. See catēgoria.

  • Accusatio Concertativa, Accusatio Adversa

    (L. “counteraccusation,” “countercharge”; translatio in adversarium, tu quoque [“you too!”]; Gk. anticatēgoria). Turning a charge back against an accuser: “[hermione]. For Polixenes, / With whom I am accused, I do confess / I loved him as in honour he required; … with a love even such, / … as yourself commanded” (The Winter’s Tale 3.2.59–64). See anticatēgoria.

  • Acervatio.

    See polysyndeton.

  • Acrylogia.

    See improprietas.

  • Actio

    (L. “activity,” “delivery”; pronuntiatio; Gk. hypokrisis). The physical delivery or performance of a speech by means of voice, facial expression, gesture, and motion (“graceful regulation of voice [vocis], countenance [vultus], and gesture [gestus]” [Rhetorica ad Herennium 1.3]). The last of the five parts of rhetoric (Gk. rhētorikēs merē; L. rhetorices partes). See dispositio, elocutio, inventio, memoria.

  • Adagium

    (L. “proverb”; sententia, maxim; Gk. apothegm, gnōmē). A pithy expression of traditional lore or wisdom: “Honest plain words best pierce the ear of grief” (Love’s Labours Lost 5.2.746).

  • Adfectus.

    See pathopoēia.

  • Adhortatio.

    See protrope.

  • Adianoeta

    (Gk. “unintelligible”). An expression that carries an implicit, often ironic, meaning that differs from its explicit meaning: “This councillor / Is now most still, most secret and most grave [dead]” (Hamlet 3.4.211–2). See allegoria.

  • Adjectio.

    See anaphora.

  • Admiratio

    (L. “wonder,” “astonishment”; Gk. thaumasmos). An exclamation of wonder: “Admired Miranda! / Indeed the top of admiration, worth / What’s dearest to the world” (The Tempest 3.1.37–9). (p. 774)

  • Admonitio

    (L. “reminder,” “warning,” “reproof”; Gk. paraenesis). A warning of impending evil: “Welcome destruction, blood and massacre. / I see, as in a map, the end of all” (King Richard III 2.4.54–5).

  • Adnominatio.

    See parōnomasia.

  • Adumbratio.

    See hypotypōsis.

  • Adynaton

    (Gk. “powerless”; L. impossibilia). A confession of one’s inability to express oneself adequately: “For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth, / Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech / To stir men’s blood. I only speak right on” (Julius Caesar 3.2.214–6).

  • Aenos

    (Gk. “tale,” “story,” “saying”). A riddling fable, often with a moral lesson: “I loved you ever—but it is no matter. / Let Hercules himself do what he may, / The cat will mew and dog will have his day” (Hamlet 5.1.279–81).

  • Aetiologia

    (Gk. “giving a cause”; apodeixis; L. redditio causae, raciocinatio; Eng. “the Tell Cause” [Putt.]). Providing a cause or reason for a claim or statement: “Let them be well / used, for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of / the time” (Hamlet 2.2.461–3).

  • Affectus

    (L. “mood,” “feeling,” “emotion”). In Roman rhetorical theory, the seat of the emotions and passions (adfectibus), held to be located in the liver: “This wins him, liver and all!” (Twelfth Night 2.5.94). See pathos, pathopoēia.

  • Affectus Expressio.

    See pathopoēia.

  • Agōn

    (Gk. “contest,” “battle,” “gathering”). Competitive struggle, especially in legal, political, and epideictic rhetoric.

  • Aischrologia, Aeschrologia

    (Gk. “foul speaking”; cacemphaton; L. scurra, turpis loquutio). Abusive language or foul, scurrilous joking: “Prick the / woman’s tailor: well, Master Shallow; deep, / Master Shallow” (King Henry IV Part 2 3.2.158–60).

  • Allēgoria

    (Gk. “speaking otherwise than one seems to speak”; L. inversio, permutatio, continua metaphora [Quintilian]; Eng. “the False Semblant” [Putt.]). Mode of figurative speech in which a metaphor is sustained throughout a discourse, often to express a secret meaning. See adianoeta.

  • Alloiosis

    (Gk. “change,” “alteration”; L. mutatio). Highlighting differences by dividing a subject into alternatives: “Ah ha, my lord, this prince is not an Edward. / He is not lulling on a lewd love-bed, / But on his knees at meditation; / Not dallying with a brace of courtesans, / But meditating with two deep divines; / Not sleeping, to engross his idle body, / But praying, to enrich his watchful soul” (King Richard III 3.7.70–6).

  • Allusio.

    See parōnomasia.

  • Ambiguitas, Ambiguum.

    See amphibolia.

  • Amphibolia

    (Gk. “ambiguity”; L. ambiguitas, ambiguum; Eng. “the Figure of Sence Incertaine” [Putt.]). An ambiguity or obscurity of meaning: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (Macbeth 1.1.11).

  • Amplificatio

    (L. “enlargement,” “expansion”; dilatio). Expanding on a subject by means of repetition, enumeration, elaboration, etc.: “I will be master of what is mine own. / She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house, / My household-stuff, my field, my barn, / My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything” (The Taming of the Shrew 3.2.230–3).

  • Anabasis.

    See climax.

  • Anadiplōsis

    (Gk. “doubling back,” “redoubling”; L. duplicatio, reduplicatio; Eng. “the Redouble” [Putt.]). Repetition of the last word or phrase of a line, clause, or sentence at the beginning of the next one: “She being none of your flesh and blood, your flesh and blood has not offended the king” (The Winter’s Tale 4.4.696–7). (p. 775)

  • Anamnēsis

    (Gk. “remembrance”; L. recordatio). Recollection of past events, ideas, or persons: “I was never so berhymed since Pythagoras’ time / that I was an Irish rat, which I can hardly remember” (As You Like It 3.2.172–3).

  • Anaphora

    (Gk. “carrying back”; epembasis; L. adjectio, repetitio). Repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses: “Mad world! Mad kings! Mad composition!” (King John 2.2.361). See antistrophē.

  • Anastrophē

    (Gk. “turning back”; parallage, syncatēgorema; L. inversio, perversio, reversio). A departure from normal word order for the sake of emphasis, often by reversing the position of two words: “Taffeta phrases, silken terms precise, / Three-piled hyperboles, spruce affectation, / Figures pedantical: these summer flies / Have blown me full of maggot ostentation” (Love’s Labours Lost 5.2.406–9).

  • Anatomy

    (Gk. “cutting up,” “dissection”; Fr. blazon). Analysis of an issue into its constituent parts; vivid, point-by-point description, usually of a person: “I’ll be sworn thou art— / Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions, and spirit / Do give thee fivefold blazon” (Twelfth Night 1.5.283–5). See effictio.

  • Animorum Motus.

    The emotions. See affectus, pathos.

  • Antanaclasis

    (Gk. “reflect,” “bend back”; anaclasis; L. refractio, reciprocatio; Eng. “the Rebound” [Putt.]). Repetition of a word or phrase whose meaning changes in the second instance: “She speaks, and ’tis such sense / That my sense breeds with it” (Measure for Measure 2.2.142–3).

  • Anthypophora.

    See hypophora.

  • Anticatēgoria

    (Gk. “countercharge”). Counteraccusation against an adversary in a law case.

  • Antilogiae

    (Gk. “against speaking,” “strife,” “contradiction”; L. argumentum in utramque partem). Advancing opposed speeches on the same topic, an art developed by Protagoras, Gorgias, Antiphon, and other sophists. See dissoi logoi.

  • Antimetabolē

    (Gk. “turning about”; L. commutatio, permutatio; Eng. “the Counterchange” [Putt.]). Repetition of words in reverse order in successive clauses, thus forming an ABBA pattern: “Madam, I swear I use no art at all. / That he’s mad, ’tis true, ’tis true ’tis pity, / And pity ’tis ’tis true: a foolish figure!” (Hamlet 2.2.96–8).

  • Antinomy

    (Gk. “opposition of law”). In forensic rhetoric, a conflict or ambiguity in the law. See scriptum et sententia/voluntas.

  • Antiphora.

    See hypophora.

  • Antirrhēsis

    (Gk. “refutation,” “counterstatement”). Rejecting an opinion or argument because of its insignificance or wickedness: “These are old fond paradoxes to make / fools laugh i’ th’alehouse. What miserable praise hast / thou for her that’s foul and foolish?” (Othello 2.1.138–40). See apodioxis.

  • Antistrēphon

    (Gk. “turning against”; L. conversio, reciproca). A retort or counterargument that turns an adversary’s argument back against them: “[Clarence]. Take heed, for He holds vengeance in His hand, / To hurl upon their heads that break his law / [Second Murderer]. And that same vengeance doth He hurl on thee / For false forswearing and for murder too” (King Richard III 1.4.198–201).

  • Antistrophē

    (Gk. “turning about”; epiphora, epistrophē; L. conversio; Eng. “the Counterturne” [Putt.]). Repetition of a word or words at the end of successive clauses, sentences, or verses: “Why then the world and all that’s in’t is nothing, / The covering sky is nothing, Bohemia nothing, / My wife is nothing, nor nothing have these nothings, / If this be nothing” (The Winter’s Tale 1.2.290–3). (p. 776)

  • Antonomasia.

    See periphrasis.

  • Apodeixis

    (Gk. “proof,” “demonstration”; apodixis). Proving a claim by referring to common knowledge or general experience: “But ’tis a common proof / That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder / Whereto the climber upward turns his face” (Julius Caesar 2.1.21–3).

  • Apodioxis

    (Gk. “driving away”; antirrhēsis; L. abominatio, detestatio, rejectio). Scornful rejection of an argument as false, impertinent, or groundless. See abominatio, antirrhēsis.

  • Apologue.

    See fabula.

  • Apophasis.

    See expeditio.

  • Aporia

    (Gk. “impasse,” “being at a loss”; diaporesis; L. dubitatio; Eng. “the Doubtfull” [Putt.]). Deliberating as if in doubt about an issue or course of action: “To be, or not to be—that is the question; / Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them” (Hamlet 3.1.57–9).

  • Apostrophē

    (Gk. “turning away”; L. aversio; Eng. “the Turne Tale” [Putt.]). Turning one’s speech from one audience to another, most often to address an abstraction, inanimate object, or absent person: “Come, seeling Night, / Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful Day, / And, with thy bloody and invisible hand, / Cancel, and tear to pieces, that great bond / Which keeps me pale!” (Macbeth 3.2.46–9).

  • Apothegm.

    See adagium.

  • Argumentatio

    (L. confirmatio, probatio; Gk. pistis, agōnes, apodeixis). Section of the speech that furnishes proof for its claims. One of the basic parts (Gk. logou merē; L. orationis partes) of the classical oration. See confutatio, divisio, exordium, narratio, partitio, peroratio, refutatio.

  • Argumentum ad Baculum

    (L. “staff,” “cudgel”). Argument based on the threat of force.

  • Argumentum ad Hominem

    (L. “man”). Argument based on a person’s character.

  • Argumentum ad Misericordiam

    (L. “pity”). Argument based on the appeal to pity.

  • Argumentum ad Populum

    (L. “crowd”). Argument based on the appeal to popular opinion.

  • Argumentum ad Verecundiam

    (L. “awe,” “reverence,” “shame”). Argument based on the appeal to respect for authority.

  • Argumentum ex Concessis

    (L. “concession”). Argument based on an adversary’s own premises.

  • Argumentum in Utramque Partem

    (L. “on either side”). See antilogiae, dissoi logoi.

  • Ars Dictaminis

    (L. “dictation”). The medieval art of prose composition, including letter writing (ars epistolica).

  • Ars Inveniendi.

    See inventio.

  • Ars Memoria.

    See memoria.

  • Ars Poetriae

    (L. “art of poetry”). The medieval art of writing poetry and epideictic speeches.

  • Ars Precandi

    (L. “art of praying”). The medieval art of prayer.

  • Ars Predicandi

    (L. “art of preaching”). The medieval art of preaching.

  • Articulus.

    See asyndeton.

  • Artistic Proofs

    (Gk. entechnoi pisteis). In Aristotle, proofs or means of persuasion derived from the techniques and principles of rhetoric as an art (technē), as opposed to contracts, witnesses, evidence gained by torture, etc. See inartistic proofs.

  • Asianism.

    Florid, ornamented style popular in the Greek-speaking cities of Asia Minor, especially during the Second Sophistic (100–300 ce). See Atticism.

  • Asyndeton

    (Gk. “unconnected,” “unbound”; L. articulus, dissolutio, dialyton; Eng. “Loose Language” [Putt.]). Omission of conjunctions between words, phrases, and clauses: “Are (p. 777) all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils, / Shrunk to this little measure?” (Julius Caesar 3.1.149–50). See zeugma.

  • Atticism.

    Spare, unadorned style modeled on the Attic orators of classical Greece. See Asianism.

  • Aversio.

    See apostrophē.


  • Barbarismos, Barbarolexis

    (Gk. “acting like a foreigner”). Employing nonstandard or foreign words, often out of affectation; mispronouncing a word through ignorance: “Neighbour vocatur / ‘nebour,’ neigh abbreviated ‘ne’. This is abhominable, / which he would call ‘abominable.’ It insinuateth me of / insanie. Ne intelligis, domine?” (Love’s Labours Lost 5.1.22–5).

  • Bdelygmia.

    See abominatio.

  • Benedictio.

    See eulogia.

  • Blazon.

    See effictio, anatomy.

  • Bomphiologia

    (Gk. “booming speech”; L. verborum bombus; Eng. “great gasying wordes” [Sherry, A Treatise of Schemes and Tropes [1550]). Bombastic, often bragging speech: “Farewell the plumed troop and the big wars / That makes ambition virtue! O, farewell, / Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump, / The spirit-stirring drum, th’ear-piercing fife, / The royal banner, and all quality, / Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!” (Othello 3.3.352–7).

  • Brachylogia

    (Gk. “short speech”; L. articulus; Eng. “the Cutted Comma” [Putt.]). Brevity of speech or writing, often achieved by omitting conjunctions between words: “The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s eye, tongue, sword” (Hamlet 3.1.150).


  • Cacemphaton.

    See aischrologia.

  • Captatio Benevolentiae

    . Section of a speech or composition (usually in the exordium) designed to capture the good will of an audience: “Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors, / My very noble and approved good masters: / … Rude am I in my speech / And little blessed with the soft phrase of peace” (Othello 1.3.77–8, 82–3).

  • Carmina

    (L. “song,” “verse”). Ritualized songs, prayers, and magical formulas in pre-literate Roman law and religion.

  • Catachrēsis.

    See abusio.

  • Cataplexis

    (Gk. “striking down”). Threat of punishment, misfortune, or disaster: “If you outstay the time, upon mine honour / And in the greatness of my word, you die” (As You Like It 1.3.85–6).

  • Catēgoria

    (Gk. “accusation”; L. accusatio). Accusation in a law case; openly criticizing a person’s wickedness: “Judge me the world if ’tis not gross in sense / That thou hast practised on her with foul charms, / Abused her delicate youth with drugs or minerals / That weakens motion” (Othello 1.2.29–32). See anticatēgoria.

  • Catena

    (L. “chain”). Commentary on classic texts linked to the first words of a sentence or paragraph, thus forming a chain.

  • Causa.

    See hypothesis.

  • Charientismus

    (Gk. “graceful jest”; L. graciosa nugutio; Eng. “the Privy Nip” [Putt.]). Parrying harsh words by answering with an appeasing mock: “[Leontes]. Give me the boy. I am glad you did not / nurse him. / Though he does bear some signs of me, yet you / Have too much blood in him. / [Hermione]. What is this? Sport?” (The Winter’s Tale 2.1.56–8). (p. 778)

  • Chorographia

    (Gk. “description of a country”; Eng. “the Counterfeit of Place” [Putt.]). Vivid description of a place or nation.

  • Chreia

    (Gk. “useful”). An instructive anecdote, saying, or maxim: “To mourn a mischief that is past and gone / Is the next way to draw new mischief on” (Othello 1.3.205–6). One of the 14 progymnasmata.

  • Chrōma.

    See colores.

  • Chronographia

    (Gk. “time writing,” “description of time”; Eng. “the Counterfeit of Time” [Putt.]). Description of a historical period or particular time: “[In Christmas season] the nights are wholesome, then no planets strike, / No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, / So hallowed and so gracious is that time” (Hamlet 1.1.161–3).

  • Circumlocutio.

    See periphrasis.

  • Circumstantiae

    (Gk. peristaseis, peristaka moria; L. negotium, circumstantiae partes). In forensic rhetoric, the circumstances surrounding a case, including (1) person (Gk. prosōpon; L. persona): Who? (2) act (Gk. pragma; L. actum): What? (3) place (Gk. topos; L. locus): Where? (4) time (Gk. chronos; L. tempus): When? (5) cause (Gk. aitia on; L. causa): Why? “Why should he call her whore? who keeps her / company? / What place? what time? what form? what likelihood?” (Othello 4.2.138–40).

  • Climax

    (Gk. “ladder”; anabasis, auxesis; L. gradatio, incrementum; Eng. “the Clyming Figure” [Putt.]). The arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in order of increasing (or decreasing) importance: “Sweet clown, sweeter fool, / sweetest lady!” (Love’s Labours Lost 4.3.15–6).

  • Colometry.

    The study of rhythmical units (Gk. cōla) and their patterns in prose and poetry.

  • Cōlon.

    See membrum.

  • Colores

    (L. “colors”; colores rhetorici; Gk. chrōma). Tropes, figures, and ornaments that add stylistic luster to a composition; in forensic rhetoric (and declamation), the slant, gloss, or interpretation given to a case or series of events: “I love no colours, and without all colour / Of base insinuating flattery / I pluck this white rose with Plantagenet” (King Henry VI Part 1 2.4.34–6).

  • Commiseratio

    (L. “compassion,” “pity”). The arousing of pity and sympathy: “Floods of tears will drown my oratory / And break my utterance even in the time / When it should move ye to attend me most, / And force you to commiseration” (Titus Andronicus 5.3.89–92).

  • Commoratio

    (L. “dwelling on a point”; Eng. “the Figure of Abode” [Putt.]). Dwelling on or repeating a strong argument: “But Brutus says, he [Julius Caesar] was ambitious, / And Brutus is an honourable man. / … And Brutus is an honourable man / … And sure he is an honourable man” (Julius Caesar 3.2.87–100).

  • Commutatio.

    See antimetabolē.

  • Compar.

    See isocōlon.

  • Complexio.

    See symplokē.

  • Compositio

    (L. “putting together”; Gk. synthesis). The arrangement of words and arguments; structure of a discourse. See dispositio.

  • Concessio

    (L. permissio, confessio; Gk. epitrope, paromologia). Conceding a point in order to prove a more important one: “Nay, do not pause; for I did kill King Henry, / But ’twas thy beauty that provoked me. / Nay, now dispatch; ’twas I that stabbed young Edward, / But ’twas thy heavenly face that set me on” (King Richard III 1.2.182–6).

  • Conciliare.

    See officia oratoris.

  • Conclusio

    (Gk. epilogos; L. peroratio). The final section of a composition (epilogue).

  • Conduplicatio.

    See plokē. (p. 779)

  • Conexum.

    See symplokē.

  • Confessio.

    See concessio.

  • Confirmatio.

    See argumentatio.

  • Confutatio

    (L. “refutation”; refutatio). Part of a composition that anticipates and refutes possible counterarguments: “And what’s he then that says I play the villain? / When this advice is free I give and honest, / Probal to thinking and indeed the course / To win the Moor again?” (Othello 2.3.331–4).

  • Constitutiones

    (Gk. zētamata logika). Issues that give rise to controversy in a judicial case. See circumstantiae, scriptum et sententia/voluntas, stasis.

  • Contio

    (L. “meeting,” “assembly”). In Latin oratory, a speech delivered at public meetings (contiones).

  • Controversiae.

    In Roman declamatory training, exercises requiring students to compose and perform imaginary forensic speeches. See suasoriae.

  • Conversio.

    Composition exercise in altering sentences to find the best formulation.

  • Copia

    (L. “copy,” “abundance”). Abundance and variety of words (verborum) and ideas (rerum): “This is a gift that I have … / a foolish extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures, / shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, / revolutions … begot in the ventricle of memory” (Love’s Labours Lost 4.2.65–8).

  • Criminis Reprehensio.

    See accusatio.

  • Cursus Honorum

    (L. “course of honors”). The career path for Roman politicians, usually leading from quaestor to praetor to consul.


  • Declamatio

    (Gk. meletē, “practice,” “exercise”). In Roman oratory and education, the practice of composing and performing fictitious speeches on topics in forensic rhetoric (controversiae) and deliberative rhetoric (suasoriae). See controversiae, suasoriae.

  • Decorum

    (L. “propriety”; Gk. to prēpon). Adapting a composition to suit the subject matter, audience, and occasion. See kairos.

  • Definitio.

    See horismos.

  • Delectare

    (L. “delight”). See officia oratoris.

  • Deliberative Rhetoric

    (Gk. genos symbouleutikon; L. genus deliberativum). Rhetoric designed to persuade a deliberative body to choose or reject a future course of action; one of the three principal genres of ancient rhetoric. See epideictic rhetoric, forensic rhetoric.

  • Demonstratio

    (L. descriptio, hypotyposis; Gk. enargeia). Vivid, lively description: “’Tis not your inky brows, your black silk hair, / Your bugle eyeballs, nor your cheek of cream, / That can entame my spirits to your worship” (As You Like It 3.5.47–9).

  • Denominatio.

    See metonymy.

  • Descriptio.

    See demonstratio.

  • Detestatio.

    See abominatio.

  • Diairesis.

    See distributio.

  • Dialogismos

    (Gk. “dialogue,” “conversation”; L. sermocinatio; Eng. “the Right Reasoner” [Putt.]). Speaking in another person’s character as part of a dialogue with oneself.

  • Dialysis

    (Gk. “separation”; L. divisio; Eng. “the Dismembrer” [Putt.]). Advancing either–or arguments that lead to a conclusion: “Your sense pursues not mine: either you are ignorant, / Or seem so craftily; and that’s not good” (Measure For Measure 2.4.74–5).

  • Dialyton.

    See asyndeton. (p. 780)

  • Dianoias Schēmata.

    See figures of thought.

  • Dicendi Genera.

    See stylistic genres.

  • Dictatores

    (L. “dictate”). In the Middle Ages, teachers of letter writing; more generally, those skilled in rhetoric.

  • Diēgēsis.

    See narratio.

  • Dilatio.

    See amplificatio.

  • Dispositio

    (Gk. taxis). Arrangement, the art of distributing words (verborum) and arguments (res); the second task of the orator. See actio, elocutio, inventio, memoria.

  • Dissoi Logoi

    (Gk. “twofold arguments”; L. argumentum in utramque partem). Opposing arguments on the same topic or question. See antilogiae.

  • Dissolutio.

    See asyndeton.

  • Distributio

    (L. divisio; Gk. merismōs; Eng. “the Distributor” [Putt.]). Division of a topic or subject into parts: “Divide me like a bribe buck, each a haunch: I will / keep my sides to myself, my shoulders for the fellow of this / walk, and my horns I bequeath your husbands” (The Merry Wives of Windsor 5.5.21–3).

  • Divisio.

    Section of a composition that sets forth the agreed-upon points. See confutatio, exordium, narratio, partitio, peroratio, refutatio.

  • Docere.

    See officia oratoris.

  • Doxa

    (Gk. “belief,” “opinion”; L. opinio). Belief or opinion, often contrasted (after Plato) with scientific knowledge (epistēmē). See endoxa.

  • Dubitatio.

    See aporia.

  • Duplicatio.

    See anadiplōsis.


  • Effictio

    (L. “fashioning”; Fr. blazon). Vivid, systematic description of a person’s appearance. See anatomy.

  • Ekphrasis

    (Gk. “description”). Vivid visual description of a person, place, object, or experience: “Methoughts I saw a thousand fearful wracks, / A thousand men that fishes gnawed upon, / Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl, / Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels, / All scattered in the bottom of the sea” (King Richard III 1.4.24–8).

  • Elenchus

    (Gk. “refutation,” “testing”). Refutation by means of logical (or quasi-logical) reasoning: “I say unto / thee, I bid thy master cut out the gown, but I did not bid / him cut it to pieces. / Ergo, thou liest” (The Taming of the Shrew 4.3.127–9).

  • Elocutio

    (L. “speak out,” “eloquence”; Gk. lexis). Style, the art of expressing and embellishing ideas and arguments with appropriate language; the third of the five tasks (rhētoros erga) of the orator. See actio, Asianism, Atticism, dispositio, inventio, memoria, stylistic virtues.

  • Elocutionis Virtutes

    . See stylistic virtues.

  • Enargeia.

    See demonstratio.

  • Endoxa

    (Gk. “beliefs,” “opinions”). In rhetoric and dialectic, probable premises based on commonly held opinions. See doxa.

  • Energeia

    (Gk. “activity,” “vigor”). Vigor and energy of expression: “Do your offices, do your / offices: Master Fang and Master Snare, do me, do me, do me your offices” (King Henry IV Part 1 2.1.39–40).

  • Enkyklios Paideia

    (Gk. “cycle of learning”). Ancient Greek ideal of a well-rounded education encompassing many fields.

  • Enthymēmē

    (Gk. “a thought,” “a consideration”; L. conclusio). A rhetorical syllogism based on probable, often implied or unspoken, premises: “What, do you tremble? Are you all afraid? (p. 781) / Alas, I blame you not, for you are mortal, / And mortal eyes cannot endure the devil” (King Richard III 1.2.43–5).

  • Epainos

    (Gk. “praise”). In epideictic rhetoric, praise of a subject’s general character, as opposed to blame (psogos): “I did infer your lineaments… . / Laid open all your victories in Scotland, / Your discipline in war, wisdom in peace, / Your bounty, virtue, fair humility; / Indeed, left nothing fitting for your purpose / Untouched or slightly handled in discourse” (King Richard III 3.7.12–9).

  • Epanalēpsis

    (Gk. “resumption,” “repetition”; L. repetitio; Eng. “Eccho Sound,” “the Slowe Return” [Putt.]). Repetition of an initial word or phrase at the end of the same clause or sentence: “Blood hath bought blood, and blows have answered blows” (King John 2.1.329).

  • Epideictic Rhetoric

    (Gk. genos epideiktikon, panēgyrikon; L. genus demonstrativum). Rhetoric designed for display (epideixis) and public ceremony, often involving praise and blame; for Aristotle, one of the three principal genres of rhetoric. See deliberative rhetoric, forensic rhetoric.

  • Epilogos.

    See peroratio.

  • Epimone

    (Gk. “tarrying upon”; Eng. “the Love Burden” [Putt.]). Frequent repetition of a phrase or question to dwell on a point: “Lest I revenge. / What, myself upon myself? / Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good / That I myself have done unto myself?” (King Richard III 5.3.186–9). See commoratio.

  • Epiphora.

    See anastrophē.

  • Epistrophē.

    See anastrophē.

  • Epitaphios Logos.

    An ancient Greek funeral speech.

  • Epitropē

    (Gk. “a turning upon”; L. concessio, permissio). See concessio.

  • Epizeuxis

    (Gk. “fastening together”; L. geminatio, iteratio; Eng. “Cuckoo-Spell” [Putt.]). Repetition of words with no intervening words: “Never, never, never, never, never” (King Lear 5.3.306–7).

  • Eristics

    (from Gk. eris, “strife,” “conflict”). In Plato, the sophistic practice of disputation (eristikē) that seeks victory without regard for truth.

  • Erōtēma

    (Gk. “questioning”; L. interrogatio; Eng. “the Questioner” [Putt.]). To affirm or deny a point by asking a question that does not invite a response (the “rhetorical question”): “I live with bread like you, feel want, / Taste grief, need friends. Subjected thus, / How can you say to me I am a king?” (King Richard II 3.2.175–7).

  • E¯thopoēia

    (Gk. “character making”; L. moralis confictio). Portrayal of character; progymnasma or composition (and performance) exercise in which students impersonate a thing or person, real or fictional, usually employing direct speech: “[Bottom as Pyramus]. Thus die I, thus, thus, thus! / Now am I dead, / Now am I fled; / My soul is in the sky. / Tongue, lose thy light; / Moon take thy flight! / Now die, die, die, die, die” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 5.1.289–95). See pathopoēia, prosōpopoēia.

  • E¯thos

    (Gk. “character,” “disposition”; L. mores oratoris). Persuasive appeal based on the speaker’s character, especially as it is established in the speech: “I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts. / I am no orator, as Brutus is, / But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man / That love my friend” (Julius Caesar 3.2.209–12). One of Aristotle’s three principal sources of persuasion. See logos, pathos.

  • Eucharistia

    (Gk. “thanksgiving”; L. gratiarum actio). Giving thanks for benefits received: “I thank my god for my humility” (King Richard III 2.1.77).

  • Euche

    (Gk. “vow,” “prayer”; L. promissio, votum). A vow to keep a promise: “And thy commandment all alone shall live / Within the book and volume of my brain / Unmixed with baser matter” (Hamlet 1.5.102–4). (p. 782)

  • Eulogia

    (Gk. “speaking well of”; L. benedictio). Praising or blessing persons, places, or things: “He hath achieved a maid / That paragons description and wild fame; / One that excels the quirks of blazoning pens” (Othello 2.1.61–3).

  • Evidentia.

    See hypotypōsis.

  • Exemplum

    (L. “specimen,” “sample”; Gk. paradeigma). An example used to support or illustrate an argument: “Grace is grace, despite of all controversy; / as for example, thou thyself art a wicked villain, despite of all / grace” (Measure for Measure 1.2.23–5).

  • Exordium

    (L. “beginning”; Gk. prooimion). The first part of a classical oration, which announces the topic and secures the attention and good will of an audience: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears: / I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” (Julius Caesar 3.2.74–5). See confutatio, divisio, exordium, narratio, partitio, peroratio, refutatio.

  • Expeditio

    (L. “a freeing from difficulties”; enumeratio; Gk. apōphasis; Eng. “the Speedie Dispatcher” [Putt.]). Rejecting all but one of several alternatives that have been enumerated.

  • Expositio.

    See procthesis.


  • Fabula

    (L. “discourse,” “story,” “narrative”; Gk. apologue). A fictitious narrative, often designed to illustrate a moral.

  • Facetia

    (L. “amusing remark,” “joke,” “witticism”). A witty or humorous remark: “It is the wittiest partition [an actor playing a wall/a rhetorical partitio] that ever I did hear discourse, my lord” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 5.1.165). See partitio.

  • Figurae Verborum.

    See figures of speech.

  • Figures of Speech

    (Gk. lēxeos schēmata, “word figures”; L. exornationes verborum [Rhetorica ad Herennium], figurae verborum, figurae elocutionis). Figures that operate at the level of the linguistic means of expression (verborum), such as metaphor, metonymy, etc. See figures of thought.

  • Figures of Thought

    (Gk. dianoias schēmata, “thought figures”; L. exornationes sententiarum [Rhetorica ad Herennium], figurae sententiae, sensus figurae). Figures that operate at the level of conceptual content (sententia), such as irony, allegory, etc. It is notoriously difficult to distinguish figures of thought (content) from figures of speech (style). See figures of speech.

  • Finitio.

    See horismos.

  • Flectere.

    See officia oratoris.

  • Forensic Rhetoric

    (Gk. genos dikanikon; L. genus judiciale). Legal rhetoric concerned with accusing or defending a past act; for Aristotle, one of the three principal genres of ancient rhetoric. See deliberative rhetoric, epideictic rhetoric.

  • Frequentatio.

    See accumulatio.


  • Geminatio.

    See epizeuxis.

  • Genos Dikanikon.

    See forensic rhetoric.

  • Genus Judiciale.

    See forensic rhetoric.

  • Gnōmē

    (Gk. “thought,” “judgment,” “opinion”; L. sententia, adagium). A brief, pithy statement of a general truth: “An honest tale speeds best being plainly told” (King Richard III 4.4.358). See adagium.

  • Graciosa Nugutio.

    See charientismus.

  • Gradatio.

    See climax.

  • Grammaticus.

    A professional teacher of grammar, language, and literature at the first stage of Roman education.

  • Gratiarum Actio.

    See eucharistia.

(p. 783)


  • Hermeneutics

    (Gk. hermēneuein, “to interpret,” “to translate”). The art of textual interpretation, especially of the Bible.

  • Heuresis.

    See inventio.

  • Homoiotēleuton

    (Gk. “like ending”; L. similiter desinens; Eng. “the Figure of Like Loose” [Putt.]). A series of words, phrases, or sentences with the same or similar endings: “The best actors in the world, either for / tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, / historical-pastoral, scene individable” (Hamlet 2.2.333–5).

  • Horismos

    (Gk. “boundary,” “definition”; L. definitio, finitio; Eng. “the Definer by Difference” [Putt.]). A brief, clear, pithy definition.

  • Humiliatio.

    See tapinosis.

  • Hypallage.

    See metonymy.

  • Hyperbaton

    (Gk. “overstepping”; L. transgressio). Violating conventional word order, often to achieve emphasis: “Yet I’ll not shed her blood / Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow / And smooth as monumental alabaster” (Othello 5.2.3–5).

  • Hypokrisis.

    See actio.

  • Hypophora

    (Gk. “carrying under”; antiphora, anthypophora; L. subjectio, rogatio; Eng. “the Figure of Response” [Putt.]). A figure in which one asks and then immediately answers one’s own questions, often as a way to refute potential objections: “What is honour? A / word. What is in that word ‘honour’? What is that / ‘honour’? Air” (King Henry IV Part 1 5.1.133–5).

  • Hypothesis

    (Gk. “subject under discussion”; L. causa). In rhetorical training, debating a particular or definite case (“Should I marry?”), as opposed to a thesis, a general or indefinite case (“Is marriage good?”).

  • Hypotypōsis

    (Gk. “sketch,” “outline,” “pattern”; L. demonstratio, evidentia, adumbratio; Eng. “the Counterfeit Representation” [Putt.]). Lively, vivid description of a scene, thing, event, or action: “[Ghost]. I could a tale unfold whose lightest word / Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, / Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres, / Thy knotted and combined locks to part / And each particular hair to stand on end / Like quills upon the fretful porcupine” (Hamlet 1.5.15–20).

  • Hysteron Prōteron

    (Gk. “the latter [put as] the former”; L. prepostera loquutio; Eng. “the Preposterous” [Putt.]). Inversion of logical or temporal order that puts the conclusion before the premise (“arsee versee”): “May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse?” (King Lear 1.4.215).


  • Icon

    (Gk. eikōn, “likeness,” “image,” “portrait”; Eng. “Resemblance by Portrait” [Putt.]). A figure that portrays the likeness of a person by means of imagery: “All furnished, all in arms / All plumed like ostriches, that with the wind / Baited like eagles having lately bathed, / Glittering in golden coats, like images… . / I saw young Harry [King Henry IV] …” (King Henry IV Part 1 4.1.96–101).

  • Idioi Topoi

    (Gk. “special topics, places”). See topoi.

  • Impossibilia.

    See adynaton.

  • Improprietas

    (L. “impropriety”; Gk. acrylogia; Fr. mal à propos, “ill-suited”). Improper or inappropriate use of words, especially words that sound similar but signify different things: “Our watch, sir, have indeed / comprehended [apprehended] two auspicious [suspicious] persons” (Much Ado About Nothing 3.5.40–1). (p. 784)

  • Inartistic Proofs

    (Gk. atechnoi pisteis). In Aristotle, proofs that do not employ the art of rhetoric, such as witnesses, contracts, and “tortures” (basanoi), as opposed to artistic or “artificial” proofs (entechnoi pisteis). See artistic proofs.

  • Ingenium

    (L. “nature,” “talent,” “genius”). In Roman oratory, natural talent or genius, as opposed to art (ars).

  • Interpretatio.

    See synonymia.

  • Interrogatio.

    See erōtēma.

  • Inventio

    (L. invenire, “to find”; Gk. heuresis). Invention, the art of discovering words and arguments, often by using the system of topoi. The first of the five tasks of rhetoric. See actio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, topoi.

  • Inversio.

    See allēgoria.

  • Isocōlon

    (Gk. “of equal members or clauses”; L. compar, parison; Eng. “the Figure of Even” [Putt.]). A series of similarly structured clauses or members (membra, cōla) of the same length: “Was ever woman in this humour wooed? / Was ever woman in this humour won?” (King Richard III 1.2.230–1).

  • Iteratio.

    See epizeuxis.



  • Kairos

    (Gk. “proper time”; L. occasio, tempus speciale). The opportune moment for speech and action, determined by grasping the exigencies of time, place, audience, and circumstances.

  • Koinoi Topoi.

    See topoi.


  • Lamentatio.

    See threnos.

  • Laudatio.

    See panegyric.

  • Leges Contrariae

    (L. “contrary laws”; Gk. antinomia). In forensic rhetoric, a dispute arising from the inconsistency between one law or written document and another.

  • Lexeos Schēmata.

    See figures of speech.

  • Lexis.

    See elocutio.

  • Licentia.

    See parrhēsia.

  • Litōtēs

    (Gk. “simple,” “plain,” “small”; L. diminutio; Eng. “the Moderateur” [Putt.]). Understatement.

  • Loci, Loci Communes

    (L. “common places”). See topoi.

  • Logographos

    (Gk. “speech writer”). In ancient Greece, a speech writer (logographer) who composed legal speeches to be memorized and delivered by a client before a jury.

  • Logos

    (Gk. “word,” “speech,” “thought, “reason”). A mode of persuasion that employs logic and reasoning; for Aristotle, one of the three principal sources of persuasion. See ēthos, pathos.


  • Martyria

    (Gk. “testimony,” “evidence”; L. testatio). Confirming something by referring to one’s own experience: “Before my God, I might not this believe / Without the sensible and true avouch / Of mine own eyes” (Hamlet 1.1.55–7).

  • Meiōsis.

    See tapinosis. (p. 785)

  • Membrum

    (L. “part,” “section”; membrum orationis; Gk. cōlon). Section or member of a discourse roughly equivalent to a clause.

  • Membrum Orationis.

    See membrum.

  • Memoria

    (L. “memory”; ars memoria; Gk. mnēmē). The art of memorizing and recalling words and subject matter for invention, style, and delivery, often employing visual images (L. imagines) projected onto mental places (L. loci). The fourth of the five tasks (rhētoros erga) of the rhetor. See actio, dispositio, elocutio, inventio.

  • Mempsis

    (Gk. “blame,” “reproach”; L. querimonia). An expression of complaint and a demand for help: “For God’s / sake, pity my case! The spite of man prevaileth against me. O / Lord, have mercy upon me!” (King Henry VI Part 2 1.3.220–2).

  • Merismōs

    (Gk. “division”; diairesis; L. distributio; Eng. “the Distributor” [Putt.]). See distributio.

  • Metabasis

    (Gk. “transition,” “change”; L. transitio). A transitional statement explaining what has happened and what will follow.

  • Metalēpsis

    (Gk. “alternation,” “succession”; L. transumptio; Eng. “the Far Fetched” [Putt.]). Reference to something by means of another thing remotely related to it, often through an implied substitution of terms or tenuous (“far fetched”) causal relationship: “Over thy wounds now do I prophesy / (Which like dumb mouths do ope their ruby lips / To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue) / A curse shall light upon the limbs of men” (Julius Caesar 3.1.260–2).

  • Metaphor

    (from Gk. metaphērein, “to carry over”; L. metaphora, translatio; Eng. “the Figure of Transsporte” [Putt.]). A figure of speech in which a name, word, or phrase is transferred to an object or action different from, but analogous to, that to which it is literally applicable: “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players” (As You Like It 2.7.140–1).

  • Metastasis

    (Gk. “removal,” “change”; L. transmotionem; Eng. “the Flitting Figure or the Remove” [Putt.]). Denying arguments and then turning them back on an adversary.

  • Metonymy

    (Gk. “change of name”; L. hypallage, denominatio, transmutatio; Eng. “the Misnamer” [Putt.]). A figure of speech that refers to something or someone by naming one of its attributes: “Bell, book, and candle [excommunication] will not drive me back / When gold and silver becks me to come on” (King John 3.3.12–3).

  • Modus Inveniendi.

    In Augustinian hermeneutics, the means of discovering the meaning of Scripture, often involving allegorical exegesis. See modus proferendi.

  • Modus Proferendi.

    In Augustinian homiletics, the means of expressing the ideas discovered in Scripture. See modus inveniendi.

  • Moralis Confictio.

    See ēthopoēia.

  • Mores Oratoris.

    See ēthos.

  • Movere.

    See officia oratoris.

  • Mutatio.

    See alloiosis.


(p. 786)


  • Occasio.

    See kairos.

  • Occultatio

    (L. “concealment,” “insinuation”). See paralipsis.

  • Officia Oratoris

    (L. “duties of the orator”). In Latin rhetorical theory, the duties (“offices”) of the orator, which include to instruct (docere), to prove (probare), to delight (delectare), to conciliate (conciliare), and to move and bend (movere, flectere).

  • Ominatio.

    See admonitio.

  • Opinio.

    See doxa, endoxa.

  • Orcos

    (Gk. “oath”; L. jus jurandum). Swearing a statement to be true: “I am the master of my speeches, and would undergo / what’s spoken, I swear” (Cymbeline 1.4.124–5).

  • Ordo Artificialis

    (L. “artistic order”). Arrangement of a speech or narrative in artistic fashion, often starting in the middle of things (in medias res) rather than from the beginning.

  • Ordo Naturalis

    (L. “natural order”). Arrangement of a speech or narrative in chronological order from beginning to end.


  • Paideia

    (Gk. “child rearing,” “education”). The Greek system of education for boys.

  • Panegyric

    (Gk. “speech for a public assembly,” “eulogy,” “praise”; L. laudatio). Speech in praise of a person, place, or thing: “This superficial tale / Is but a preface of her worthy praise; / The chief perfections of that lovely dame— / Had I sufficient skill to utter them— / Would make a volume of enticing lines / Able to ravish any dull conceit” (King Henry VI Part 1 5.4.105). One of the principal genres of epideictic rhetoric (genos panēgyrikon).

  • Parabola

    (Gk. “throwing beside”; Eng. “Resemblance Mystical” [Putt.]). A parable that draws parallels between two dissimilar things to illustrate a moral lesson.

  • Paradeigma

    (Gk. “model,” “example”). See exemplum.

  • Paraenesis.

    See admonitio.

  • Paragmenon.

    See polyptoton.

  • Paralipsis

    (Gk. “a leaving to one side”; L. occultatio, preteritio; Eng. “the Passager” [Putt.]). Drawing attention to something while pretending to pass it over: “I fear I wrong the honourable men / Whose daggers have stabbed Caesar: I do fear it” (Julius Caesar 3.2.152–3).

  • Parallage.

    See anastrophē.

  • Parataxis.

    See asyndeton.

  • Parison.

    See isocōlon.

  • Paromologia

    (Gk. “partial agreement”; L. concessio, confessio; Eng. “the Figure of Admittance” [Putt.]). See concessio.

  • Parōnomasia

    (Gk. “altering slightly in naming”; L. allusio, adnominatio; Eng. “the Nicknamer” [Putt.]). Wordplay that uses words that sound alike (homophones) but differ in meaning (“punning”): “An ass’s nole [donkey’s head] I fixed on his head” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 3.2.17).

  • Parrhēsia

    (Gk. “free-spokenness,” “frankness”; L. licentia; Eng. “the Licentious” [Putt.]). Candid, fearless speech: “[King Leontes]. I’ll ha’ thee burnt. / [Paulina]. I care not. / It is an heretic that makes the fire, / Not she which burns in’t. I’ll not call you tyrant, but …” (The Winter’s Tale 2.3.112–4).

  • Partitio

    (L. “division”; divisio, propositio; Gk. prothesis, prokataskeuē). Section of a discourse that surveys the points to be made; one of the six parts of the classical oration. See argumentatio, confutatio, divisio, exordium, narratio, peroratio, refutatio. (p. 787)

  • Passio.

    See pathos.

  • Pathopoēia

    (Gk. “arousing of feeling”; adfectus, affectus expressio). General term for exciting the emotions, passions, and affects: “Call up her father, / Rouse him, make after him, poison his delight” (Othello 1.1.67–8).

  • Pathos

    (Gk. “suffering,” “emotion,” “feeling”; L. passio). Emotion; an appeal to the emotions, passions, and affects (adfectibus): “I never longed to hear a word till now. / Say ‘pardon’, King; let pity teach thee how. / The word is short, but not so short as sweet” (King Richard II 5.3.114–6). In Aristotle, one of the three principal sources of persuasion. See ēthos, logos.

  • Peithō

    (Gk. “persuasion”). The Greek goddess of persuasion.

  • Periphrasis

    (Gk. “speaking around,” “circumlocution”; L. antonomasia, circumlocutio; Eng. “the Figure of Ambage” [Putt.]). Talking around something, often by using descriptive phrases instead of names: “[King Claudius]. Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen, / Th’imperial jointress of this warlike state, / Have we as ’twere with a defeated joy, / With one auspicious and one dropping eye, / With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage, / In equal scale weighing delight and dole / Taken to wife” (Hamlet 1.2.8–14).

  • Peristaseis.

    See circumsantiae.

  • Permissio.

    See concessio.

  • Permutatio.

    See allēgoria, antimetabolē.

  • Peroratio

    (Gk. epilogos; L. conclusio). The conclusion of a speech. See argumentatio, confutatio, divisio, exordium, narratio, partitio, refutatio.

  • Personae Confictio.

    See prosōpopoēia.

  • Perversio.

    See anastrophē.

  • Phronēsis

    (Gk. “thinking,” “practical wisdom”; L. prudentia). The faculty of judgment or practical wisdom.

  • Pisteis.

    See artistic proofs.

  • Plokē

    (Gk. “plaiting”; L. conduplicatio; Eng. “the Doubler,” “the Swift Repeat” [Putt.]). Repetition of a single word for emphasis or effect: “Why brand they us / With base? With baseness? Bastardy? Base, base?” (King Lear 1.2.9–10). See antanaclasis, polyptoton.

  • Polyptoton

    (Gk. “using the same word in many cases”; paragmenon; L. adnominatio, traductio; Eng. “the Tranlacer” [Putt.]). Repetition of the same root word with different endings: “That we find out the cause of this effect— / Or rather say the cause of this defect, / For this effect defective comes by cause. / Thus it remains, and the remainder thus” (Hamlet 2.2.101–4).

  • Polysyndeton

    (Gk. “using many conjunctions”; L. acervatio; Eng. “the Couple Clause” [Putt.]). Employing many conjunctions between clauses: “And in her bosom I’ll unclasp my heart / And take her hearing prisoner with the force / And strong encounter of my amorous tale” (Much Ado About Nothing 1.1.271–3). See asyndeton.

  • Praemunitio

    (L. “strengthening beforehand”). Fortifying oneself in advance of an attack: “Go on, go on. / Thou canst not speak too much. I have deserved / All tongues to talk their bitterest” (The Winter’s Tale 3.3.213–4).

  • Praesumptio.

    See procatalēpsis.

  • Pragmatographia

    (Gk. “description of an action”; L. descriptio; Eng. “the Counterfeit Action” [Putt.]). Vivid description of an action: “All but mariners / Plunged in the foaming brine and quit the vessel; / Then all afire with me, the King’s son, Ferdinand, / With hair up-staring (then like reeds, not hair), / Was the first man that leapt, cried ‘Hell is empty’” (The Tempest 1.2.210–4).

  • Precatio

    (L. “prayer”). See ars precandi, euche.

  • Prēpon

    (Gk. “what is fitting”). See decorum. (p. 788)

  • Prepostera Loquutio.

    See hysteron prōteron.

  • Preteritio

    (L. “passing over”). See paralipsis.

  • Probare.

    See officia oratoris.

  • Probatio.

    See argumentatio.

  • Procatalēpsis

    (Gk. “a seizing in advance”; L. prolēpsis, praesumptio; Eng. “the Presumptuous” [Putt.]). Refuting anticipated objections and counterarguments: “Perhaps thou wilt object my holy oath. / To keep that oath were more impiety / Than Jephthah, when he sacrificed his daughter” (King Henry VI Part 3 5.1.92–4).

  • Procthesis

    (Gk. “introduction,” “prefatory account”; L. expositio). Providing reasons and circumstances to justify what has been said or done: “As I slew my best lover for the / good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself when it shall / please my country to need my death” (Julius Caesar 3.2.41–3).

  • Progymnasmata

    (Gk. “preparatory exercises”; L. praeexercitamina). The sequence of 14 composition (and performance) exercises at the core of Hellenistic and Roman rhetorical training: (1) fable (Gk. mythos); (2) narrative (Gk. diēgēma); (3) anecdote (Gk. chreia); (4) proverb (Gk. gnōmē); (5) refutation (Gk. anaskeuē); (6) confirmation (Gk. kataskeuē); (7) commonplace (Gk. koinos topos); (8) encomium (Gk. enkōmion); (9) vituperation (Gk. psogos); (10) comparison (Gk. synkrisis); (11) impersonation (Gk. ēthopoēia, prosōpopoēia); (12) description (Gk. ekphrasis); (13) theme or thesis (Gk. thesis); (14) proposal of a law (Gk. nomou eisphora).

  • Prokataskeuē.

    See partitio.

  • Prolēpsis

    (Gk. “a preconception”). See procatalēpsis.

  • Promissio.

    See euche.

  • Pronuntiatio.

    See actio.

  • Propositio.

    See partitio.

  • Prosopographia

    (Gk. “face,” “character”; prosographia; Eng. “the Counterfeit Countenance” [Putt.]). Vivid description of the face or appearance of an imaginary or fictional person: “The counterfeit presentment of two brothers: / See what a grace was seated on this brow, / Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself, / An eye like Mars to threaten and command” (Hamlet 3.4.51–5).

  • Prosōpopoēia

    (Gk. “character making”; L. conformatio, sermocinatio, personae confictio; Eng. “Counterfeit in Personation” [Putt.]). Figure in which an inanimate object or imaginary, absent, or dead person is represented as speaking or acting (impersonation): “In this same interlude it doth befall / That I, one Snout by name, present a wall; / And such a wall, as I would have you think, / That had in it a crannied hole or chink . . .” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 5.1.154–7). See ēthopoēia.

  • Prothesis.

    See partitio.

  • Protrope

    (Gk. “exhortation”; L. adhortatio). An exhortation to act that employs threats or promises: “Then in God’s name, march. / True hope is swift and flies with swallow’s wings: / Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings” (King Richard III 5.3.22–4).

  • Psogos.

    See epainos.

  • Psychagōgia

    (Gk. “soul-leading”). In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates’s definition of rhetoric as the “leading of souls.”

  • Pysma

    (Gk. “question”; L. quaesitio, quaesitum). Posing a series of questions: “How dares / Thy harsh rude tongue sound this unpleasing news? / What Eve, what serpent hath suggested thee / To make a second fall of cursed man? / Why dost thou say King Richard is deposed?” (King Richard II 3.4.74–7).

(p. 789)




  • Sardismus.

    See soraismus.

  • Schēma

    (Gk. “form,” “figure”). Any kind of artful form or pattern of words.

  • Schēmatismos

    (Gk. “giving form”). Concealing a meaning by using figurative language (“figured speech”). See allegoria, significatio.

  • Scriptum et Sententia/Voluntas

    (L. “letter and intention”). In Roman legal rhetoric, the letter or literal meaning (scriptum) of a law as opposed to its sense, spirit, or authorial intention (sententia, voluntas): “The bloody book of law / You shall yourself read, in the bitter letter, / After your own sense” (Othello 1.3.68–70).

  • Scurra.

    See aischrologia.

  • Sententia

    (L. “judgment,” “opinion,” “thought”). See adagium.

  • Sermocinatio.

    See dialogismos.

  • Significatio

    (L. “sign,” “emphasis”; Eng. “the Reinforcer” [Putt.]). To imply more than is actually stated: “[King Claudius]. How is it that the clouds still hang on you? / [Hamlet]. Not so, my lord, I am too much i’ th’ sun [not your son/under royal surveillance]” (Hamlet 1.2.66–7).

  • Similiter Desinens.

    See homoiotēleuton.

  • Skesis.

    See paronomasia.

  • Skotison

    (Gk. “darkened”). Deliberate obscurity of meaning: “[Rosaline]. What’s your dark meaning, mouse, of this light word? / [Katharine]. A light condition in a beauty dark. / [Rosaline]. We need more light to find your meaning out” (Love’s Labours Lost 5.2.19–21).

  • Soraismus

    (Gk. “heaping up”; cumulatio, sardismus; Eng. “Mingle-Mangle” [Putt.]). Mingling different languages artlessly or with affectation. See barbarismos.

  • Stasis

    (Gk. “discord,” “standing”; L. status, constitutio). A procedure for determining the decisive issue (Gk. krinōmenon; L. judicatio) under dispute in legal cases by posing a series of (p. 790) questions, including: (1) the question of fact: “Did it happen? [L. An sit?]” (Gk. stokhasmos; L. status conjecturalis); (2) the question of definition: “What happened? [L. Quid sit?]” (Gk. horos, horismos; L. status definitiva, proprietas); (3) the question of quality: “What is the quality of the act? [L. Quale sit?]” (Gk. poiōtes; L. status generalis, qualitas); and (4) the question of jurisdiction: “Is this the right court to decide this issue?” (Gk. metalēpsis; L. status translativa, translatio).

  • Stylistic Genres

    (Gk. logou charaktēres; L. dicendi genera). The three principal genres or levels of style, including plain (L. humile, extenuatum), moderate (L. modicum, temperatum), and elevated (L. grande, gravis, sublime).

  • Stylistic Virtues

    (Gk. lexeos aretai; L. elocutionis virtutes). The qualities of good style, including (1) correctness (Gk. Hellenismos; L. Latinitas); (2) clarity (Gk. saphēneia; L. perspicuitas); (3) appropriateness (Gk. to prēpon; L. decorum, aptum); and (4) ornamentation (Gk. kataskeuē; L. ornatus).

  • Suasoriae.

    In Roman declamatory training, exercises requiring students to compose and perform imaginary deliberative speeches. See controversiae.

  • Subjectio.

    See hypophora.

  • Symplokē

    (Gk. “intertwining”; L. complexio, conexum). Repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning and the end of successive clauses or sentences: “Thou hadst an Edward, till a Richard killed him. / Thou hadst a Richard, till a Richard killed him” (King Richard III 4.4.42–3). See plokē.

  • Syncatēgorema.

    See anastrophē.

  • Synecdoche

    (Gk. “understanding one thing in terms of another”; L. intellectio, pars pro toto; Eng. “the Figure of Quick Conceit” [Putt.]). Substitution of part for whole, species for genus, or vice versa: “Take thy face hence” (Macbeth 5.3.18).

  • Synonymia

    (L. “naming alike”; nominis communio, interpretatio; Eng. “the Figure of Store” [Putt.]). Amplification by means of words or phrases with the same or similar meaning (synonyms): “‘Sleep no more! / Macbeth does murther Sleep,’—the innocent Sleep; / Sleep, that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care, / The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, / Balm of hurt minds, great Nature’s second course, / Chief nourisher in life’s feast” (Macbeth 2.2.34–9).

  • Synthesis.

    See compositio.

  • Synthroesmus.

    See accumulatio.


  • Tapinosis

    (Gk. “reduction,” “humiliation”; L. humiliatio; Eng. “the Abaser” [Putt.]). Giving a name to something that minimizes its importance: “Get you gone, you dwarf; / You minimus, of hindering knot-grass made; / You bead, you acorn” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 3.2.328–9).

  • Taxis

    (Gk. “arrangement,” “order”). See dispositio.

  • Testatio

    (L. “a bearing witness”). See martyria.

  • Thaumasmos

    (Gk. “wondering,” “marveling”). See admiratio.

  • Thesis.

    See hypothesis.

  • Threnos

    (Gk. “dirge”; L. humiliatio). A lamentation: “Tell thou the lamentable tale of me / And send the hearers weeping to their beds. / For why the senseless brands will sympathize / The heavy accent of thy moving tongue / And in compassion weep the fire out; / And some will mourn in ashes, some coal-black, / For the deposing of a rightful king” (King Richard II 5.1.44–50).

  • Topographia

    (Gk. “description of place”; Eng. “the Counterfeit Place”). Description of a place: “Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle, / Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads (p. 791) touch heaven / … And of the cannibals that each other eat, / The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads / Do grow beneath their shoulders” (Othello 1.3.141–6).

  • Topoi

    (Gk. “place”; L. topica, loci, loci communes). Basic categories and lines of argument (“places”) that help the orator discover, arrange, and memorize material for a speech, such as definition (Gk. horos; L. finitio), division (Gk. diairesis; L. divisio, partitio), comparison (Gk. parathesis; L. comparatio), etc.: “And in his brain, / which is as dry as the remainder biscuit / After a voyage, he hath strange places crammed / With observation, the which he vents / In mangled forms” (As You Like It 2.7.38–42). Aristotle distinguished between topics of invention common to many fields (koinoi topoi, “common topics”) and those useful in specialized areas of knowledge (idioi topoi, “special topics”).

  • Topothesia

    (Gk. “description of a place”; L. loci positio). Description of an imaginary place. See topographia.

  • Traductio.

    See polyptoton.

  • Transgressio.

    See hyperbaton.

  • Transitio.

    See metabasis.

  • Translatio.

    See metaphor.

  • Transmutatio.

    See metonymy.

  • Transumptio.

    See metalēpsis.

  • Tria Genera Causarum

    (L. “three kinds of cause”). The three principal genres of rhetorical theory and practice in ancient Greek and Roman rhetoric, comprising judicial (forensic) rhetoric, political (deliberative) rhetoric, and epideictic (ceremonial) rhetoric. See deliberative rhetoric, epideictic rhetoric, forensic rhetoric.

  • Trope

    (Gk. “a turn”). A word or phrase that turns from its literal meaning toward a figurative one, as with metaphor, metonymy, etc.



  • Zētamata Logika.

    See constitutiones.

  • Zeugma

    (Gk. “yoking together”; L. adnexio, junctio; Eng. “the Single Supply” [Putt.]). A form of ellipsis in which one word, usually a verb, controls two or more parts of a sentence: “A husband and a son thou ow’st to me; / —And thou a kingdom; —all of you, allegiance” (King Richard III 1.3.169–70).


(1.) “Writers,” observes Quintilian, “have given special names to all the figures, but variously and as it pleased them” (Institutio oratoria 9.3.54). In light of Quintilian’s warning, this glossary of basic Greek and Latin rhetorical terms aims above all at clarity, economy, and simplicity. It is designed for readers approaching rhetoric for the first time, and its definitions should serve as points of departure for further exploration of the philological labyrinths of the lexicon rhetoricae. The glossary draws on three indispensible resources for the study of tropes, figures, and rhetorical terminology in general: Richard Lanham’s A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); Gideon O. Burton’s Silva Rhetoricae (; and George Puttenham’s 1589 The Art of English Poesy, edited by Wayne A. Rebhorn and Frank Whigham (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007). Advanced students and scholars are directed to Heinrich Lausberg’s Handbook of Literary Rhetoric, edited by David E. Orton and R. Dean Anderson (Leiden: Brill, [1960] 1998), and the Historisches Wörterbuch der Rhetorik, edited by Gert Ueding et al. (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1996). Quotations from William Shakespeare are drawn from the Arden Shakespeare (Third Series) and The Norton Shakespeare, edited by Stephen Greenblatt (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).


(1.) “Writers,” observes Quintilian, “have given special names to all the figures, but variously and as it pleased them” (Institutio oratoria 9.3.54). In light of Quintilian’s warning, this glossary of basic Greek and Latin rhetorical terms aims above all at clarity, economy, and simplicity. It is designed for readers approaching rhetoric for the first time, and its definitions should serve as points of departure for further exploration of the philological labyrinths of the lexicon rhetoricae. The glossary draws on three indispensible resources for the study of tropes, figures, and rhetorical terminology in general: Richard Lanham’s A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); Gideon O. Burton’s Silva Rhetoricae (; and George Puttenham’s 1589 The Art of English Poesy, edited by Wayne A. Rebhorn and Frank Whigham (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007). Advanced students and scholars are directed to Heinrich Lausberg’s Handbook of Literary Rhetoric, edited by David E. Orton and R. Dean Anderson (Leiden: Brill, [1960] 1998), and the Historisches Wörterbuch der Rhetorik, edited by Gert Ueding et al. (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1996). Quotations from William Shakespeare are drawn from the Arden Shakespeare (Third Series) and The Norton Shakespeare, edited by Stephen Greenblatt (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997).