Rhetorical Figures Beginning with “D” and “E”

The next installment in our series on obscure Greek and Latin rhetorical figures showcase those figures beginning with the letters “D” and “E”. Whether you’re brushing up for English class, for a rhetoric and composition class, or preparing for the SAT Essay, this list of rhetorical figures should be useful to you. Most students do NOT know the names of these devices, and, as a result, if and when you’re able to spot an author’s use of a specific device and analyze that device’s effect in the text, you’ll likely impress whoever is grading your essay! So, without further ado, let’s take a look at rhetorical figures beginning with “D” and “E”.

(If you’re interested in rhetoric, check out Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric, a brilliant and useful site by BYU from which many of these descriptions have been drawn!)


Expressing a desire on behalf of someone’s sake, usually God’s.

Example of deesis: “Oh, for God’s sake, please be kind to others!”


Vivid description of a tree.

Example of dendrographia: “The old, gnarled oak reached its sturdy branches into the sky…”


A prayer against evil or for the removal of evil.

Example of deprecatio:

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. —Matt 26:39


Vivid description (compare with enargia) containing the explanation of the consequences of an act.

Example of descriptio:

Should you let the defendant go free, consider how he will prey upon other hapless victims, perhaps even hunting in your own neighborhood.


Repetition of a word with one or more word in between.

Example of diacope:

“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse.” —Richard III in Shakespeare’s Richard III


Dividing one syllable into two (or a genus into species)

Example of diaeresis:

Pronouncing “realtor” as “real-uh-ter”


Speaking as someone else, incorporating others’ points of view, or having a dialogue with oneself for the purpose of reasoning.

Example of dialogismus:

“This is merely an oversight,” he tells us. “It is no crime.” But I say, when an oversight takes such dimensions as these, it is indeed a crime.


To spell out alternatives, or to present either-or situations that lead to a conclusion.

Example of dialysis:

If you remember it, I have said enough, if not, my words will not provoke you.


Repetition of a word or common name so as to introduce the name and to imply a quality or characteristic about the name.

Example of diaphora:

Boys will be boys.


Graphic peristalsis (description of circumstances) meant to arouse emotions.

Example of diaskeue:

Look at my children, their malnourished cheeks, their bare feet, their hunger to know something more than hunger…


To lengthen a syllable or vowel beyond its typical length, typically for the purposes of fitting a poetic meter.

Example of diastole:

“I know thee well, a serviceable villain.” — Shakespeare’s King Lear

In the above example, serviceable would be pronounced service able, with a long a instead of the typical short a.


Rejecting an argument through a ridiculous comparison.

Example of diasyrmus:

Arguing that we can clean up government by better regulating elections is like asking a dog to quit marking his territory by lifting his hind leg.


One subject governing several verbs, usually arranged in a parallel manner. The opposite of zeugma.

Example of diazeugma:

The Romans destroyed Numantia, razed Carthage, obliterated Corinth, overthrew Fregellae. —Ad Herennium


Admitting to a charge against oneself, but justifying it as necessary.

Example of dicaeologia:

Prince. Father, you cannot disinherit me.
If you be king, why should not I succeed?
King Henry Pardon me, Margaret, pardon me, sweet son,
The Earl of Warwick and the Duke enforc’d me.
—Shakespeare 3 Henry VI 1.1.226-29


A departure or digression from a logical procession in a speech.

Example of digressio:

In Jonathan Swift’s Tale of a Tub, Swift devotes an entire chapter, a digression, in praise of digressions (Section VII), thus comically combining encomium with digressio.


Offering an opponent a choice between two (typically unfavorable) alternatives.

Example of dilemma:

Either your client is guilty of perjury, or of murder.


Assigning roles or specifying the duties of a list of people.

Example of distributio

The prosecutor’s job is to bring charges; the defence lawyer’s, to answer and downplay these; the witness, to state truthfully what has been seen or heard, the judge, to keep all these three doing what they ought. To allow a witness to make accusations only confuses the role of a prosecutor with those of a witness…


An emotional exclamation.

Example of ecphonesis:

O tempora! O mores!


Vivid description, which allows the reader or listener to see an object, person, or event. An ekphrastic poem is one which describes a work of art.


A description of a person’s body, often from head to toe. Originally referred to forensic rhetoric for the purpose of identifying a criminal but has been adapted to literary/poetic usage.

Example of effictio:

I mean that man, he with the white hair, the crazed look in his eye, the huge scar across his chin, the lame left leg, and feet too large for any shoes…


Omission of a short word or phrase usually understood in context.

Example of ellipsis:

John forgives Mary, and Mary, John.

The word “forgives” has been elided in the second half of the sentence.


Substitution of gramatically different but semantically interchangeable constructions.

Example of enallage:

I dropped the pencil vs. the pencil was dropped by me.


Using opposing or contradictory descriptions together.

Example of enantiosis:

Money is an excellent servant but a cruel master.


General term for vivid descriptive figures.


A statement of praise of a person, place, or thing.


Obscuring one’s meaning by placing it in a riddle.

Example of enigma:

The first shall be last.

Those who hunger are most full.


Purposefully holding back information but nevertheless hinting at what is being held back. A kind of circumlocution.


A conclusion coupled with a reason.

Example of enthymeme:

We cannot trust this man, for he has perjured himself in the past.


Repetition of the same word or clause after intervening matter.

Example of epanalepsis:

A lie begets a lie.


Repeating the main terms of an argument in the course of presenting it, or returning to the main theme after digression.


Amending a first thought by making it stronger or more vehement.

Example of epanorthosis:

I am angry, no, I’m furious.


The addition of a letter, syllable, or sound to a word.

Example of epenthesis:

When sherbet is pronounced “sherbert”


Interposing an apposition, to clarify what has been said.

Example of epergesis:

I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.


When one interprets what one has just said.

Example of epexegesis:

I’m afraid we’ve run up against the bamboo curtain—that is to say, an economic and political barrier in the East as real as the iron curtain has been in the West.I’m afraid we’ve run up against the bamboo curtain—that is to say, an economic and political barrier in the East as real as the iron curtain has been in the West.


Ending clauses, phrases, or lines with the same words.

Example of epistrophe:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us.” —Emerson


Adding a concluding sentence that emphasizes what has been said.

Example of epitasis:

Clean your room. All of it.


Attributing a quality or description to a person or thing.

Examples of epitheton:

Unfettered joy

The wine-dark sea


Turning things over to one’s hearers.

Examples of epitrope:

Go ahead, make my day… —Clint Eastwood

If you seeke the victorie take it, and if you list, triumph. —A. Fraunce

Because all things [be] taken away, only is left unto me my body and mind. These things, which only are left unto me of many, I grant then to you and to your power. —R. Sherry

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. —Ecclesiastes 11:9


Placing the verb of the sentence either at the beginning or the end.

Examples of epizeugma:

Fades beauty with disease or age.

With disease or age, beauty fades.


Repetition of words with nothing in between, for emphasis.

Example of epizeuxis:

“Words, words, words…” —Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet


Rhetorical question.

Example of erotema:

Why are you so stupid?


Substituting a more favorable or gentler expression for a blunt or vulgar one.

Example of euphemismus:

“His tongue is now a stringless instrument.” —Northumberland in Shakespeare’s Richard II. Northumberland means to say “he died.”


Numbering and ordering points under consideration.

Example of eutrepismus:

First, are diplomatic alternatives exhausted? Second, do we have sufficient means to isolate the enemy? Third, would a siege achieve the desired effect?


Repetition of an idea, either changing its words or the delivery of them.

Example of exergasia:

Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer… —Psalm 17:1


After naming possibilities, eliminating all but one.

Example of expeditio:

You either made, purchased, or stole the bomb. Since you lack the intelligence to make it and the funds to purchase it, it can only be that you have stolen it.


Stirring others by one’s own passionate feelings.

Example of exuscitatio:

Can I stand by and let the government trample on my rights? Is that safe? Is that right? Can any of us afford to allow this wrong to continue?

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That’s it! Hopefully these Greek and Latin rhetorical figures were useful and interesting to you. For more on rhetoric, and for more SAT and ACT prep tips, check out the rest of our blog. Looking for 1-on-1 ACT or SAT prep tutoring to help you with the college application process? Want to join an SAT or ACT group class? Contact us today!  We’re perfect-scoring tutors with years of experience helping students achieve the SAT and ACT scores they need to make their dreams a reality!

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