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Definition and Examples of Pleonasm

Pleonasm is the repetition of an idea through words or phrases within the same member of a sentence, that mean the same thing.

The Pleonasm is etymologically derived from the Greek “pleonazein,” in literal sense meaning “to be in excess.” Typically, Pleonasm occurs in sentences as,

  1. The King, he reigns.

    (Here the word he creates a superabundance of words.)

In many Pleonastic expressions we suppose an interruption of the sentence, and after that an abrupt renewal of it; as the King – he reigns. The depiction of the word he, in this case, neither qualifying nor modifying the word King, distinguishes Pleonasm from its relative counterpart, AppositionOpens in new window.

Pleonasm, as far as the view above is applicable, is reduced to what is apparently, its opposite, viz. EllipsisOpens in new window.

Notable Examples of Pleonasm

  1. “The inaudible and noiseless foot of time”

    —(An excerpt from: All’s Well that Ends Well)

  2. My banks, they are furnished, — the most straites sect.
  3. With these very eyes I saw him do it.

    (Referring to eyes is unnecessary since this is implied with “saw.”)

  4. The verbal excess that occurs in a pleonasm can strengthen what is expressed, as when the Psalmist lamented:

  5. “By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin”

    — (Psalm 102:5)

The Double NegativeOpens in new window, allowed in GreekOpens in new window and A. S.Opens in new window, but not admissible in English, is Pleonastic. However, when used out of proportion, pleonasm tends to result to battologyOpens in new window — an excessively unjustified redundance, often seen as mistakes.

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  • References
    • Silver Rhetoricae: PleonasmOpens in new window;
    • Bernard Marie Dupriez, A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus, A-Z | Pleonasm p. 345;
    • Robert Gordon Latham, The English Language | Pleonasm p. 360.

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