Pleonasm Definition, Types, and Its Difference to Tautology

25 June 2023 / Team Fun English Course

Pleonasm is a common mistake, but most especially among rookie English learners. Therefore, understanding the pleonasm definition and its examples may be beneficial in order to reduce that kind of blunder

What is Pleonasm?

What is Pleonasm

First thing first, how to pronounce pleonasm? Pronounced plee-uh-naz-uhm, pleonasm is derived from pleonazein, a Greek term expressing ‘excessiveness’.

When it comes to pleonasm, the examples are plenty, be it in published writings, movies, or songs. In fact, even native speakers do not realize such mistakes, let alone English students.

Pleonasm meaning is an attempt of using multiple words without them having a clear importance. In other words, you can also think of it as word redundancy. Take a look at this sentence; 

  • The number is only a rough estimation of what we can actually get.

Explanation: ‘Estimation’ itself can be used to describe ‘rough calculation’ or ‘prediction’.

Here is another example;

  • It is good to see you, what an unexpected surprise!

Explanation: ‘Surprise’ is usually unexpected, so it is better to remove ‘unexpected’.

Furthermore, pleonasm is also usually found after an acronym, such as;

  • Wait a minute, I need to go to the ATM machine.

Explanation: ATM is short for ‘Automatic Teller Machine’.

Despite all that, some people also make pleonasm on purpose. For example, in drama scripts or songs. In fact, even the renowned figure Shakespeare makes such a mistake in Hamlet;

  • He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.

Explanation: ‘He’ is used to refer to man or ‘male’, therefore the use of ‘man’ is unnecessary. However, in this play, Shakespeare uses the pleonasm to refer to a flawless man instead of an ordinary man.

Different Kinds of Pleonasm

There are two types of pleonasm; syntactic and semantic. Here is the explanation:

Type #1 Syntactic Pleonasm

This kind of pleonasm happens when the grammar of certain words makes other words in the sentence seem unnecessary. Here are a few examples:

  • I can’t not see this, it is gonna be the hottest gossip in town.

Explanation: ‘Can’t’ and ‘not’ negates each other. Even though it is grammatically incorrect, it is popular in pop culture, such as memes or slang.

  • She is way more taller than me, I do not think she will like me.

Explanation: ‘Taller’ already indicates that the height of the said person exceeds the speaker. Therefore, ‘more’ is unnecessary. The same principle also applies to ‘way’, which pictures a big gap between their height. The correct use would be ‘way taller’ or just ‘taller.

Type #2 Semantic Pleonasm

Unlike syntactic pleonasm, semantic pleonasm does not think of a word as removable due to its grammar, but because of its idea. For example;

  • Let us pack our things and take a trip down south.

Explanation: ‘Down’ refers to a position in the south direction on the map. It is unnecessary to say ‘down south’.

  • I enjoy a blended milkshake during lunch.

Explanation: Milkshake is always blended.

Pleonasm vs Tautology

Pleonasm vs Tautology

Now that you master pleonasm, it is time to understand tautology. In fact, many believe that these two are the same, when in fact, it is not. What is the difference between the two?

Tautology is the act of using the same words or using two words with the same meaning, within one sentence. For example;

  • I am just a tiny little woman! I do not deserve this!

Explanation: ‘Tiny’ and ‘little’ share the same meaning.

Understanding pleonasm will help you look more skillful in your English delivery, especially in writing. For that, let us in Fun English Course help you.

With a list of adept tutors, Fun English Course will assist you to reach the desired goals. In our exceptional English programs, we will teach you more than pleonasm definition, but also other kinds of common English mistakes. So, worry not, call us and be sure that you are in good hands.

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