metalepsis metalepsis
 me-ta-lep'-sis from Gk. meta, "change" and
lambanein "to take" ("to change the sense")
transumption, the farrafet

Reference to something by means of another thing that is remotely related to it, either through a farfetched causal relationship, or through an implied intermediate substitution of terms. Often used for comic effect through its preposterous exaggeration. A metonymical substitution of one word for another which is itself figurative.

Pallid death
The effect of death is to make the body pale. Ascribing this effect to death itself as an adjective here is an example of metalepsis.

He is such a lead foot.
This means, "he drives fast" but only through an implied causal chain: Lead is heavy, a heavy foot would press the accelerator, and this would cause the car to speed.

In Laurence Sterne's novel, Tristram Shandy, Tristram blames his troubled life and character (the effect) on his parents' ill-timed conception of him (the remote cause)—a rather comical and extended example of metalepsis.

Related Figures

Related Topics of Invention

  Sources: Quintilian 8.6.37-38; Susenbrotus (1540) 11 ("metalepsis," "transumptio"); Sherry (1550) 41 ("metalepsis," "transsumptio," "transsupcion" [sic]); Wilson (1560) 200 ("transumption"); Peacham (1577) C4v; Putt. (1589) 193 ("metalepsis," "the farrefet"); Day 1599 79

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Gideon O. Burton, Brigham Young University
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