figures of amplification
figures of speech
groupings index

Amplification ("auxesis" in Greek and "amplificatio" in Latin) is a central term in rhetoric, naming a variety of general strategies as well as some very specific procedures or figures of speech.

Amplification as a scheme (an arrangement of words)

Amplification (auxesis) sometimes refers to arranging words or clauses in a sequence of increasing force. In this sense, auxesis is comparable to climax and has sometimes been called "incrementum."

Amplification as a change in connotation

Amplification (auxesis) sometimes names the act of referring to something in terms disproportionately large (a kind of exaggeration or hyperbole).

Amplification as an emotional effect

Amplification sometimes names a desired effect (associated with the emotional appeal or pathos), which can be achieved through various figures or rhetorical strategies. It has also named the process of discovering or composing such emotionally charged passages.

Amplification as arrangement

Amplification deals generally with addressing the parts of any given communicative activity, and so to "amplify" a speech would be to address each element of its conventional arrangement. Thus, each of the parts of an oration can be considered a method of amplification, including those figures or strategies that are optional, incidental, or which further specify the parts of an oration. These include

Amplification as copia (a pedagogical process)

Amplification also names a central method of rhetorical pedagogy equally associated with rhetorical invention and with the development of style through various exercises in amplification (see copia).

As such, amplification names an important point of intersection within rhetoric where figures of speech and figures of thought coalesce. That is to say, means for varying and repeating kinds of expression (figures of speech, or copia verborum) overlap with means for developing ideas or content (the figures of thought, or copia rerum).

Within the progymnasmata exercises, certain standard methods were suggested for amplifying subject matter within these practice orations, including the use of dialogue (sermocinatio) and various kinds of description (see Figures of Description).

Amplification of Thought or Subject Matter

Amplification can be considered synonymous with the entire activity of rhetorical invention, in that it can deal with developing material, coming up with something to say, by considering and employing various commonplaces or topics of invention. As such, all of the topics of invention can be considered means of amplifying (developing) an argument or a speech. Especially common as topics for amplification are

Figures for amplifying thought or ideas are many and have been grouped into such categories as figures of division, description, and reasoning:

  • Figures of Division
    • enumeratio
      Dividing a subject into its adjuncts, a cause into its effects, or an antecedent into its consequents.
  • Figures of Reasoning
    • aetiologia
      A figure of reasoning by which one attributes a cause for a statement or claim made, often as a simple relative clause of explanation.
    • enthymeme
      The informal method of reasoning typical of rhetorical discourse.
    • paromologia
      Admitting a weaker point in order to make a stronger one.
    • dirimens copulatio
      A figure by which one balances one statement with a contrary, qualifying statemnt
  • exergasia
    Repetition of the same idea, changing either its words, its delivery, or the general treatment it is given. A method for amplification, variation, and explanation.
  • peristasis
    A description of attendant circumstances
  • synonymia
    In general, the use of several synonyms together to amplify or explain a given subject or term. A kind of repetition that adds emotional force or intellectual clarity.
  • epiphonema
    An epigrammatic summary which gathers into a pithy sentence what has preceeded. A striking, summarizing reflection.
  • epitasis
    The addition of a concluding sentence that merely emphasizes what has already been stated.
  • correctio
    To amend a term or phrase one has just employed, or to specify more particularly by explaining what something is not.
  • epexegesis
    When one interprets what one has just said. A kind of redefinition or self-interpretation
  • metabasis
    A transitional statement in which one explains what has been and what will be said.
  • synathroesmus / frequentatio
    The conglomeration of many words and expressions either with similar meaning (= synonymia) or not (= congeries).
  • expeditio
    After enumerating all possibilities by which something could have occurred, the speaker eliminates all but one
  • commoratio
    Dwelling on or returning to one's strongest argument.
  • gnome sententia, chreia
    A short, pithy saying, which can be used to amplify subject matter.

Amplification as a Category of Figures.

The centrality of amplification to rhetoric is apparent in its use as a way of categorizing the function of many figures, especially when authorities have used amplification as a way of creating a third category of figures that lies between those of words and those of thought (See Figures of Speech and Thought). In other words, amplification is a way of understanding both narrow, local modes of rhetorical figuring and broader, content-oriented modes of rhetorical argument or overall effects.

Amplification as Vice

Amplification can also be considered en error, either by overtreating the subject matter (tautologia) or by using more words than necessary (see Stylistic vices and also Figures of Excess and Superfluity)

See Also


Sources: Aristotle 1.9.38-40 ("auxesis"); Erasmus, De copia

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

Trees | SILVA RHETORICAE | Flowers