from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A figure of speech using words in nonliteral ways, such as a metaphor.
  • n. A word or phrase interpolated as an embellishment in the sung parts of certain medieval liturgies.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Something recurring across a genre or type of literature, such as the ‘mad scientist’ of horror movies or ‘once upon a time’ as an introduction to fairy tales. Similar to archetype and cliché but not necessarily pejorative.
  • n. A figure of speech in which words or phrases are used with a nonliteral or figurative meaning, such as a metaphor.
  • n. A short cadence at the end of the melody in some early music.
  • n. A phrase or verse added to the mass when sung by a choir.
  • n. A pair of complementary hexachords in twelve-tone technique.
  • n. A cantillation.
  • v. To use, or embellish something with a trope.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The use of a word or expression in a different sense from that which properly belongs to it; the use of a word or expression as changed from the original signification to another, for the sake of giving life or emphasis to an idea; a figure of speech.
  • n. The word or expression so used.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In rhetoric, a figurative use of a word; a word or expression used in a different sense from that which properly belongs to it, or a word changed from its original signification to another for the sake of giving spirit or emphasis to an idea, as when we call a stupid fellow an ass, or a shrewd man a fox.
  • n. In Gregorian music, a short cadence or closing formula by which particular melodies are distinguished. Also called differentia and distinctio.
  • n. In liturgics, a phrase, sentence, or verse occasionally accompanying or interpolated in the introit, Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei in different parts of the Western Church. Since the sixteenth century tropes have no longer been used.
  • n. A geometrical singularity, the reciprocal of a node.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. language used in a figurative or nonliteral sense


Latin tropus, from Greek tropos, turn, figure of speech.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin tropus, from Ancient Greek τρόπος (tropos, "a turn, way, manner, style, a trope or figure of speech, a mode in music, a mode or mood in logic"). (Wiktionary)



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  • See semi-parodic

    March 25, 2012

  • This word has been made forever funny to me by knowing two completely different people with a last name pronounced this way but spelled differently in each case. (Trop, Troup)

    (If either of you see this, hi!)

    March 20, 2009

  • Thanks, V, for posting this. Haven't read it in quite a while. :-)

    February 27, 2007

  • Very nice. Have you considered creating a Poetrie list?

    February 27, 2007

  • The first time I encountered this word was in Adrienne Rich's poem, Poetry I:

    Someone at a table
    under a brown metal lamp is studying
    the history of poetry. Someone
    in the library at closing time
    has learned to say "modernism,"
    "trope," "vatic," "text." She is
    listening for shreds of music, he is
    searching for his name back in the
    old country. They cannot learn without teachers.
    They are like us. What we were. If you
    remember. In a corner of night, a voice
    is crying in a kind of whisper more. Can
    you remember when we thought the poets
    taught how to live? That is not the
    voice of a critic, or a common reader.
    It is someone young, in anger, hardly
    knowing what to ask, who finds our lines,
    our glosses, wanting in this world.
    Damn, but I love Adrienne Rich.

    February 27, 2007