An Introduction to Auxesis

Auxesis (etymologically Greek, literally means “growth,” or “amplification”), entails two contextual definitions.

Firstly — The rhetorical amplification, whereby a grander word is used in place of an ordinary one, to lend a sense of grandeur to the person or the object being amplified.

Basically, this means enlarging the importance of something by referring to it with a disproportionate name. In this instance, the figure is similar to HyperboleOpens in new window — exalting a thing in our conception beyong its natural bounds, and the opposite of meiosisOpens in new window — making a thing appear less than it is by putting a less word for a greater.

In Melville’s “The Paradise of Bachelors,” the narrator refers to a mere waiter as a “field-marshal” and then as “Socrate.” Thus, a gallant man becomes a “prince” or a virtuous man a “saint,” a fair virgin an “angel,” good music “heavenly harmony.”

Secondly — Words or clausesOpens in new window placed in a climactic order that is, — ascending one above another in respect of importance, by setting the greatest last:

Examples include:
  • ‘Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! – no, no! They heard! – they suspected! – they knew!’
  • — (“The Tell-Tale Heart,” 5:94)

  • ‘The school-room was the largest in the house – I could not help thinking, in the world.
  • — (“William Wilson,” 3:303)
Further Readings:
Sister Miriam Joseph | Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language: AuxesisOpens in new window
Brett Zimmerman | Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric and Style: AuxesisOpens in new window