Examples of Tropes: Semantic Inversions

Rhetorical Question

Asking a question for a purpose other than obtaining the information requested.

Why are you so stupid?

Why, God, do you allow this to happen?


Using language in such a way as to convey a meaning opposite of what the terms used denote (often by exaggeration).

Example :

For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, honourable men

—Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


Placing two ordinarily opposing terms adjacent to one another. A compressed paradox.

O heavy lightness, serious vanity!
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love I feel, that feel no love in this

—Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet I.i

"National standards for diversity"


An apparently contradictory statement that contains a measure of truth.

Art is a form of lying in order to tell the truth — Pablo Picasso


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Gideon O. Burton, Brigham Young University
Please cite "Silva Rhetoricae" (rhetoric.byu.edu)

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