A Trope is a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression.
The word trope comes from the Greek word τρόπος (tropos), in which it means “a turn, direction, or way. It has long been used as a technical term in rhetoric to designate the use of a word or expression in a different sense than that which properly belongs to it in order to give liveliness, emphasis, perspective, coloration, or some other quality to an idea. For instance, the phrase broken heart and the use of Wall Street to refer to the U.S. finance industry are tropes because their literal meanings are different from what we understand them to mean. Lately trope is catchall for any familiar thing that recurs in art, media, politics, or social interaction, even if the recurring element is not figurative. Trope have been in English over 5 centuries, so it has been the most consistent through his time. But the beginning of trope came in the late 80s and 90s.Tropes in literature are vehicles that transport us to a richer experience and resonance with both the sensory aspects and experience aspects of any genre of writing: fiction, poetry, or nonfiction.

Trope VS Metaphor

Compared to an metaphor, metaphor is a very particular kind of non-literal trope where analogous terms are used. A dictionary should confirm this.
Patterns of diction that deviate, or stretch from what is expected.
"I'll die from embarrasment"

Types of Tropes

1. Hyperbole
This trope uses exaggeration to get its point across.

Examples of a Hyperbole

He’s been here hundreds of times.
I’ll die from embarrassment.
She has tons of money.

Literary example of Hyperbole

-Most famous one would be A red, red rose by Robert Burns

“As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
O I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.”

In this poem he is using exaggeration on emphasis of love as the example of hyperbole.
2. Irony
With irony, a word or words are taken in the opposite way from their literal meaning.

Examples of Irony

I just love doing dishes.
Your explanation is clear as mud.
That cloth is as smooth as sandpaper.

Literary Example of Irony

-Most famous example would be Shakespeare - Romeo and Juliet

“Two households, both alike in dignity…”

Shakespeare leads the audience to believe that Montague and Capulet are both respectful families. However, as the narrative proceeds, we realize that both families were not noble. Many of their actions were not worthy of their good positions in society. Hence, Shakespeare has used irony to develop this situation.
3. Litotes
This trope understates to emphasize a point and is opposite to a hyperbole.

Examples of Litotes

That’s not the worst idea.
She’s not the most attractive person.
I am not a happy camper.

Literary example of Litotes

- As a most famous example would be To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell

“The grave’s a fine a private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.”

The poet tries to understate the idea that he is unable to have sex with his beloved in this world, and suggests the opposite idea of having it in coffins where they could have privacy. However, there would be no hugging.
4. Metaphor
The metaphor compares two things that have very little in common but do share a trait or characteristic. It says something is something else to show what they have in common.

Examples of Metaphor

He is an ogre.
You are my sunshine.
This school is a zoo.
5. Metonymy
With the metonymy trope, a word or phrase is substituted for another that is closely associated to it.

Examples of Metonymy

Man of the cloth
Red letter day
Big brother

Literary example of Metonymy

-The most famous example would be Hamlet by William Shakespeare

“The serpent that did sting thy father’s life.”

“Give every man thy ear, but few they voice.”

-this means to listen to what others have to say and speak little
6. Oxymoron
The oxymoron literally means “sweet and sour” and uses words that contradict each other. Often, these are quite humorous.

Examples of Oxymoron

Jumbo shrimp
Organized mess
Worried optimist
7. Personification
This trope gives human attributes to things that are not human.

Examples of Personification

The flowers nodded their heads.
The pizza disagreed with me.
The old car wheezed and complained.
8. Pun
Repeats an word or an phrase but means it in a different way.

Examples of Pun

"Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana."
9. Rhetorical question
This is a question that you do not expect anyone to answer.

Examples of Rhetorical question

How did he get that job without qualification?
When will they learn?
How much longer will this last?
10. Simile
This trope compares two things that have some things in common.

Examples of Simile

Blind as a bat
Pretty like a flower
Hard as a rock
11. Synecdoche
This uses a part of something to represent the whole.

Examples of Synecdoche

"Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend me your ears"
I just got a new set of wheels.
The world is treating me nicely.

Literary examples of Synecdoche

- The most famous one would be The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (By T. S. Eliot)

“To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet …”

“And I have known the eyes already, known them all —
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase …”

“And I have known the arms already …
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.”

12. Zeugma
This trope uses one verb with two or more words and each time there is a different meaning.

Examples of Zeugma

I left my heart and my luggage in San Francisco.
He broke my heart and my car.

Tropes vs Schemes

Tropes and schemes are both figures of speech that add color and interest to language. These are devices that contribute to the style of the author and can help to get the point across. One way they do this is by appealing to the emotions of the recipient.
- The trope changes the meaning of an expression.
- A scheme changes the order of the words

Often, a scheme will repeat a word or phrase several times for emphasis. A good example of scheme is the repetition of “I have a dream” in the famous speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. This type of scheme is an anaphora.

So, now you know what tropes are and have some examples, and you should be able to both recognize them and use them in your own writing.

Function of Trope

Since trope is a figurative expression, its major function is to give additional meaning to the texts, and allow readers to think profoundly, to understand the idea or a character.
Also, it creates images that produce artistic effects on the audience’s senses.
Through trope, writers intensify normal human feelings into extraordinary emotions, where they feel that those emotions are not ordinary.
Additionally, most types of trope present comparisons that make the understanding of the text easier for readers.

Literary terms which are not trope


When someone uses someone else ideas is called plagiarism of stealing. A trope is something that floats in the culture, so when author uses it it's not stealing it's trope.


A cliché is a tired, stale, or boring trope. Obviously, this is a bit of a subjective distinction – some people love the “good cop/bad cop” trope, for example, while others find it tiresome and cliché. The best thing to do is use tropes in original ways. Cliché has a very strong negative connotation.


It's such a strong mother-figure or father-figure found in nearly all human cultures therefore believed to be an expression of universal human desires or experiences. Unlike a cliche or an ordinary trope, the never get changed because they are too meaningful and relevant to all of us.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License