Trope (literature)  

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A literary trope is the usage of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning. The term trope derives from the Greek tropos, "turn, direction, way", related to the root of the verb τρέπειν (trepein), "to turn, to direct, to alter, to change".

Rhetoricians have closely analyzed the great variety of "turns and twists" used in poetry and literature and have provided an extensive list of precise labels for these poetic devices. Some examples include:

For a longer list, see Rhetorical remedies.

Since the 1970s, the word has also come to mean a commonly recurring motif or device, a cliché. However, there has been some push back towards trope being a synonym for cliché and it is now used to denote something that, while similar in definition, does not carry the stigma that cliché currently does (i.e., a trope has not been done to the point of exhaustion, at which point it would become a cliché). Therefore, this meaning corresponds rather to the literary topos. It can mean specifically a literary technique, plot device, or stock character, or more generally a stereotype.


In linguistics, trope is a rhetorical figure of speech that consists of a play on words, i.e., using a word in a way other than what is considered its literal or normal form. The other major category of figures of speech is the scheme, which involves changing the pattern of words in a sentence.

The term trope derives from the ancient Greek word tropos "turn, direction, way, related to the root of the verb τρέπειν (trepein), "to turn, to direct, to alter, to change". A trope is a way of turning a word away from its normal meaning, or turning it into something else.


  • Metonymy — a trope through proximity or correspondence, for example referring to actions of the U.S. President as "actions of the White House".
  • Irony — creating a trope through implying the opposite of the standard meaning, such as describing a bad situation as "good times".
  • Metaphor — an explanation of an object or idea through juxtaposition of disparate things with a similar characteristic, such as describing a courageous person as having a "heart of a lion".
  • Synecdoche — related to metonymy and metaphor, creates a play on words by referring to something with a related concept: for example, referring to the whole with the name of a part, such as "hired hands" for workers; a part with the name of the whole, such as "the law" for police officers; the general with the specific, such as "bread" for food; the specific with the general, such as "cat" for a lion; or an object with the material it is made from, such as "bricks and mortar" for a building.
  • Antanaclasis — is the stylistic trope of repeating a single word, but with a different meaning each time. Antanaclasis is a common type of pun, and like other kinds of pun, it is often found in slogans.
  • Allegory — A sustained metaphor continued through whole sentences or even through a whole discourse. For example: "The ship of state has sailed through rougher storms than the tempest of these lobbyists."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Trope (literature)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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