In a word: Pleonasm

January 17, 2012

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


Enough may be as good as a feast, but sometimes you want more than enough. That is when you reach for a pleonasm (pronounced PLEE-uh-naz-um), using more words than necessary to convey meaning. We get the word from the late Latin pleonasmus, deriving in turn from the Greek pleonazein, "to be superfluous." The Greek root is pleon, "more."

In rhetoric, a pleonasm is a praiseworthy excess of words for emphasis—or a fault of style, an irritating redundancy. It all depends on the skill of the writer.

Example: T.S. Eliot: " 'Indirect crook'd' is forceful in Shakespeare; a mere pleonasm in Massinger."

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