Pleonasm – What is it, uses, examples and other figures of speech

We explain what a pleonasm is, its differences with the oxymoron and examples. Also, vicious pleonasm and other figures of speech.

Pleonasm consists of adding unnecessary words.

What is a pleonasm?

A pleonasm or truism is called a rhetorical figure that consists of producing a greater intensity in the sentence by adding redundant terms, unnecessary from a formal point of view.

That is, it is in a strict sense the same as redundancy, which is considered an error or at most an improper, inelegant use of the language. However, in cases where such “error” is intentional or carried out for poetic purposes, the term “pleonasm” is preferred (from the Greek pléon, “a lot and asmos, “suddenly”).

In any case, both pleonasm and redundancy consist in adding words to the sentence that could be considered unnecessary, because instead of adding new or relevant information, they insist on that already contained in the sentence or on a previous word, for example: ” dividing wall ”or“ human person ”. As you can see, both terms provide the same information, and therefore just one would suffice.

In colloquial language, redundancy can appear as a sentence construction error, but also as a way to emphasize the content of what was said, adding identical information in case the message is not captured the first time. In other cases, it may constitute a mechanism to obtain a poetic effect, as in the poem “Elegía a Ramón Sijé” by the Spanish poet Miguel Hernández (1910-1942):

“I walk on the stubble of the dead,
and without heat from anyone and without consolation
I go from my heart to my affairs.
Death took flight early,
early got up at dawn,
early you’re rolling on the floor. “

Thus, in “early morning” the idea of ​​”early” is already included (since those who rise early get up early, that is, at dawn), and in “rolling” it is already contained “on the ground” (because rolling is, precisely, spin on the ground). But the poet chooses the pleonasm for reasons of meter, musicality, and emphasis, and without them the poem would not be as powerful.

Examples of pleonasm

Common examples of pleonasm in everyday speech are:

  • “To shut up”
  • “Raise up” or “lower down”
  • “Final verdict”
  • “Unreachable Utopia”
  • “Soler often”
  • “Time frame”
  • “Free gift”
  • “Involuntary forgetfulness”
  • “Honey from bees”
  • “Collective genocide”
  • “Eradicate at the root”

Vicious pleonasm

Another of the names of pleonasm, the truism or redundancy is that of vicious pleonasm. That is to say: a pleonasm that has become a vice, in an inelegant and ill-correct way of speaking, rather than serving as a mechanism for poetic expression or in some elevated form of language.

Pleonasm and oxymoron

We should not confuse the pleonasm and the oxymoron, two very common figures of speech. The first introduces an unnecessary repetition or reiteration of what has already been said. Instead, the oxymoron places two mutually exclusive terms next to each other. In other words, while pleonasm is a form of semantic repetition, the oxymoron is instead a form of metaphor.

Examples of oxymorons are the following: “descent to the heights”, “radiant darkness”, “famous anonymity” or “brutal delicacy”.

Other figures of speech

In addition to the pleonasm and the oxymoron, of which we have already spoken, we can mention other rhetorical figures such as the following:

  • Alliteration. It consists of the repetition of sounds within a sentence or a phrase, to obtain a sound or expressive effect. It is common in poetry and literary language. For example: “with the wing of the fan” (Rubén Darío).
  • Ellipse. Figure contrary to pleonasm, consists of the omission of words or terms in the sentence that, despite being grammatically necessary, do not prevent the transmission of the message with their absence. For example: “I bought cigarettes, and my sister a magazine.”
  • Asyndeton. It consists of the elimination of the links or conjunctions that should normally appear within the sentence, for example, when it is an enumeration. For example: “I came, I saw, I conquered” (Julius Caesar).
  • Polysyndeton. Figure contrary to asyndeton, which instead of suppressing conjunctions, adds them excessively to seek a repetitive effect. For example: “There is a palace and a river and a lake and an old bridge…” (Juan Ramón Jiménez).
  • Cataphor. It consists of the anticipation within the sentence of something that will be expressed later, to achieve a more dramatic or expressive effect. For example: “I told you, not to follow that path.”
  • Hyperbaton. Literary figure in which the usual order of the sentence, that is, its syntax, is altered to achieve a sentence that says the same in a more poetically relevant or expressive way. For example: “The dark swallows will return / their nests to hang on your balcony” (Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer).