An Introduction to Tricolon

Tricolon is a series of three parallel related elements, each of which shares a quality with each of the other elements.

In Tricolon, the elements can be of the same length, they can alliterate, or they can rhyme. The classic example of the tricolon is Julius CaesarOpens in new window’s letter to the Roman Senate, commending his victory over Pharnaces II of PontusOpens in new window, in which he offered this parallel tricolon:

Other Examples of Tricolon include:
  • Nec tē noster amor, nec tē data dextera quondam, nec moritūra tenet crūdēlī fūnere Dīdō? | (as translated. “Does our love not hold you, nor does my right hand having been given hold you, nor does Dido about to die with a cruel death hold you?”)
  • — Virgil, Aeneid Book IV
  • “We cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow...”
  • — Abraham Lincoln, speeches in Gettysburg Address
  • “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
Important Hint! 

Sometimes, each subsequent clause becomes progressively longer than the preceding one; and in this respect, it is known as Tricolon crescensOpens in new window. A tricolon sometimes shares similarity with the figure known as HendiatrisOpens in new window.

Corbett, Edward P.J. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. Oxford University Press, New York, 1971.
Smyth, Herbert Weir (1920). Greek Grammar. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. p. 680.