Hypocatastasis

Hypocatastasis: An implied resemblance, representation or comparison that does not directly name both referents.
Hypocatastasis: An implied resemblance, representation or comparison that does not directly name both referents.

What Is Hypocatastasis?

Hypocatastasis (etymologically from Greek, literally “substitution” or “implication”) is an implied resemblanceOpens in new window, representationOpens in new window or comparisonOpens in new window that does not directly name both referentsOpens in new window. By this very concept of implicationOpens in new window, hypocatastasis is an implied metaphorOpens in new window or an implied simileOpens in new window.

Concepts and Observation

If metaphorOpens in new window be oftentimes more forcible than simileOpens in new window, hypocatastasis or implication can be more forcible than metaphor; as it expresses its referent as though it were a superlative degree of resemblance.

Hypocatastasis is often delivered forcefully where the supposed verb that would have termed the resemblance as either, a simile or metaphor is omitted; as Bullinger emphasized thus: one may say to another,

  • “You are like a beast.”
  • This would be simile, declaratively stating a fact.

However, if, he said,

  • “You are a beast”
  • that would be metaphor.

But, where he simply says,

  • “Beast!”
  • that would be hypocatastasis, for the other part of the simile or metaphor [“you”], would be implied (understood).

However, hypocatastasis differs from metaphors, and similes, in that these latter figures expressly name the two referents in its comparisons, while the former (hypocatastasis), only names one referent and leaving the other implied (understood). To distinguishably exemplify this differentiation, an illustration is drawn from the statement in Jer. 4:7, in reference to the king of Babylon: “A lion has gone up from his thicket.”

[If it had said],

  • “the king of Babylon has gone up like a lion from his thicket”
  • we would have had a simile;

[if it had said],

  • “the king of Babylon is a lion gone up from his thicket”
  • we would have a metaphor, but where it states:
  • “a lion has gone up from his thicket,”
  • where the implied but not named “referent” is the king of Babylon — we have a scenario of hypocatastasis.
Further Readings:
Wikipedia | HypocatastasisOpens in new window
E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible Explained and Illustrated (1898; repr. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1988 [p. 744 – 48])