Printable Version
Pronunciation: plee-ê-næ-zêm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The use of more words than are necessary, either as a fault of style or for emphasis, e.g. 'a hackneyed cliché' or 'to see with your own eyes'.

Notes: Pleonasms may be stylistically bad or good, as the two examples above exemplify. The adjective is pleonasmic or pleonasmical, but only the latter is subject to adverbialization: pleonasmically. Should you like to give your style a touch of Latin, pleonasmus is an absolute synonym of pleonasm.

In Play: We hear pleonasms all the time: true fact, gnashing of teeth, veer off course, PIN number, ATM Machine, frozen tundra, it may be possible, tuna fish (sandwich) are all pleonasms. But perhaps the most famous pleonasm has been attributed to Yogi Berra, former catcher for the New York Yankees: "It's déjà vu all over again."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken and (sometimes) modified from Latin pleonasmus "pleonasm", which Latin took from Greek pleonasmos, the noun from pleonazein "to be superfluous, excessive". This verb was created from pleon "more", one Greek word derived from PIE pelê-/polê- "to fill". This word arose in many Indo-European languages. In Russian it arose as polnyi "full", in English as fill and full, and German as füllen "to fill". Latin made plenus "full" and plenitas "fullness" out of it. English borrowed the French version of the latter Latin word for its plenty. Greek converted the same PIE word into polus "much, many", which English borrowed as a prefix, poly-. (Now let's gratefully thank Lew Jury for suggesting such an arcane Good Word for a commonplace phenomenon as this one.)

Dr. Goodword,

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