Aposiopesis (from Classical Greek, ἀποσιώπησις, "becoming silent") is the rhetorical device by which the speaker or writer deliberately stops short and leaves a statement unfinished to be supplied by the imagination, giving the impression that he/she is unwilling or unable to continue. A common example is the threat "Get out, or else—!" It often portrays the speaker as being overcome with passion (fear, anger, excitement) or modesty. To mark the occurrence of aposiopesis with punctuation editors use an em dash or an ellipsis.

A classical example of aposiopesis in Virgil occurs in "Aeneid" 2.100. Sinon, the Greek who is posing as a traitor to deceive the Trojans into accepting the Trojan Horse within their city wall, tells about how Ulixes spread false rumors at Sinon's expense. Ulixes does not stop his malicious gossiping until he causes Sinon's ruin with the help of the seer Calchas. The whole story is a lie that Sinon tells with consummate artistry in order to convince the Trojans that he deserted the Greeks to escape Ulixes's enmity. To ensure the effect of his elaborate lie, Sinon at one point leaves a crucial statement unfinished ("Aen". 2.97-100):

"hinc mihi prima malis labes, hinc semper Vlixes
""criminibus terrere nouis, hinc spargere uoces
""in uulgum ambiguas et quaerere conscius arma.
""nec requieuit enim, donec Calchante ministro—

"This was the time when the first onslaught of ruin began for me.
"Ulixes kept terrifying me with new accusations,
""kept spreading ambiguous rumors among the people,
""and kept looking for quarrel.
""Nor did he in fact ever stop, until with the help of Calchas—

A more modern example of aposiopesis occurs in Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer": “Well, I lay if I get ahold of you I'll—.”

Another modern example occurs in ' in which Darth Vader says of Obi-Wan Kenobi, “I sense something; a presence I have not felt since—”, referencing the events of '.

A biblical example is found in Psalm 27, verse 13. The Hebrew, written by King David (c. 1005–965 BCE), says in English: "Unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living . . . " The implication is that David does not know what he would have done.

In syntax, an aposiopesis arises when the 'if- clause' or protasis of a condition is stated without an ensuing 'then- clause' or apodosis.



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  • aposiopesis — f. *Figura retórica que consiste en sustituir con puntos suspensivos un final que es penoso o embarazoso decir. ⇒ *Reticencia. * * * aposiopesis. (Del lat. aposiopēsis, y este del gr. ἀποσιώπησις). f. Ret. reticencia (ǁ figura retórica) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • aposiopesis — (n.) rhetorical artifice wherein the speaker suddenly breaks off in the middle of a sentence, 1570s, from Latin, from Gk. aposiopesis a becoming silent, also as a rhetorical figure, from apo (see APO (Cf. apo )) + siope silence …   Etymology dictionary

  • aposiopesis — (Del lat. aposiopēsis, y este del gr. ἀποσιώπησις). f. Ret. reticencia (ǁ figura retórica) …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • aposiopesis — [ap΄ō sī΄ō pē′sis, ap΄ə sī΄əpē′sis] n. [L < Gr aposiōpēsis < aposiōpan, to be silent < apo , from + siōpan, to be silent] a sudden breaking off of a thought in the middle of a sentence as if one were unable or unwilling to continue (Ex …   English World dictionary

  • Aposiopesis — Ap o*si o*pe sis (?; 277), n. [L., fr. Gr. ?, from ? to be quite silent.] (Rhet.) A figure of speech in which the speaker breaks off suddenly, as if unwilling or unable to state what was in his mind; as, I declare to you that his conduct but I… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Aposiopēsis — (gr., lat. Reticentia), Redefigur, wo man mitten in der Rede abbricht u. das verschweigt, was folgen sollte, obgleich es aus dem Zusammenhang, der Stimmung des Redenden etc. leicht ergänzt werden kann, z.B. Daß dich – …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Aposiopēsis — (griech., lat. Reticentia, »Verschweigung«), rhetorische Figur, wobei man mitten in der Rede abbricht und dem Hörer die Ergänzung überläßt. Berühmt ist die A. in Vergils »Äneide«, I, 139. »Quos ego!«, entsprechend unserm. »Ich will euch –« …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Aposiopesis — Aposiopēsis (grch. »Verstummen«, lat. reticentĭa), rhetorische Figur, das Abbrechen mitten im Satz, so daß man dem Zuhörer die Ergänzung überläßt …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Aposiopesis — Aposiopesis, rhet. Figur; man spricht, den Satz abbrechend, den Gedanken nicht aus, läßt ihn aber errathen …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Aposiopesis — Die Aposiopesis (griech. Verschweigen, Beginn des Schweigens) ist eine musikalisch rhetorische Figur. Sie bezeichnet das gezielte Einsetzen von Pausen an bestimmten Stellen innerhalb eines musikalischen Satzes, um Begriffe wie Tod, Verlust,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia