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See also: -trope




A US Federal Art Project (1936–1939) poster showing Little Red Riding Hood and a wolf, with the caption “once upon a time”. That phase, which appears in the introduction of many traditional fairy tales, can be regarded as a trope (noun sense 1)

From Latin tropus, from Ancient Greek τρόπος (trópos, a manner, style, turn, way; a trope or figure of speech; a mode in music; a mode or mood in logic), related to τροπή (tropḗ, solstice; trope; turn) and τρέπειν (trépein, to turn). The verb is derived from the noun.



trope (plural tropes)

  1. (art, literature) Something recurring across a genre or type of art or literature, such as the ‘mad scientist’ of horror movies or the use of the phrase ‘once upon a time’ as an introduction to fairy tales; a motif.
    • 2017 February 23, Katie Rife, “The Girl With All The Gifts tries to put a fresh spin on overripe zombie clichés”, in The A.V. Club[1]:
      You have to give director Colm McCarthy, a Scottish TV veteran making his feature film debut, and writer Mike Carey, adapting his own novel, credit for attempting the seemingly impossible task of doing something new with the zombie subgenre. And by blending it with the common YA [young adult] trope of a young female protagonist who leads the world into a new revolutionary era, they almost get there—largely thanks to newcomer [Sennia] Nanua, who presents her character's grappling with complex themes of identity and original sin with a childlike guilelessness.
  2. (rhetoric) A figure of speech in which words or phrases are used with a nonliteral or figurative meaning, such as a metaphor.
  3. (geometry) Mathematical senses.
    1. A tangent space meeting a quartic surface in a conic.
    2. (archaic) The reciprocal of a node on a surface.
  4. (music) Musical senses.
    1. A short cadence at the end of the melody in some early music.
    2. A pair of complementary hexachords in twelve-tone technique.
    3. (Judaism) A cantillation pattern, or one of the marks that represents it.
    4. (Roman Catholicism) A phrase or verse added to the Mass when sung by a choir.
  5. (philosophy) Philosophical senses.
    1. (Greek philosophy) Any of the ten arguments used in skepticism to refute dogmatism.
    2. (metaphysics) A particular instance of a property (such as the specific redness of a rose), as contrasted with a universal.

Usage notesEdit

In the art or literature sense, the word trope is similar to archetype and cliché, but is not necessarily pejorative.

Derived termsEdit



trope (third-person singular simple present tropes, present participle troping, simple past and past participle troped)

  1. (transitive) To use, or embellish something with, a trope.
  2. (transitive) Senses relating chiefly to art or literature.
    1. To represent something figuratively or metaphorically, especially as a literary motif.
    2. To turn into, coin, or create a new trope.
    3. To analyse a work in terms of its literary tropes.
  3. (intransitive) To think or write in terms of tropes.


Related termsEdit


Related termsEdit

Further readingEdit




trope m (plural tropes)

  1. (music, literature, linguistics) trope

Further readingEdit




  1. vocative singular of tropus