Definition of aposiopesis in English:



mass nounRhetoric
  • The device of suddenly breaking off in speech.

    ‘in coping with the unsaid and unsayable, oral history is impelled towards aposiopesis’
    • ‘This wouldn't be much of a play, so Donaghy tells it in stammers and dithers, fragmented verbiage and non sequiturs, inchoate bits and overlapping dialogue, aposiopesis and time lags (a question is answered three or four lines later).’
    • ‘She uses the dash in the traditional manner, marking pauses, aposiopesis, and rhetorical transitions, but she also uses it in a non-traditional manner.’
    • ‘The first sentence is a continuation of the aposiopesis in the previous paragraph - the answer to the unspoken question, ‘What did you think about?’’
    • ‘In ancient Greek rhetoric, the aposiopesis occasionally takes the form of a pause before a change of subject or a digression.’
    • ‘I simply do not know what it…’ (All the aposiopeses, incidentally, are Gogol's.)’


Late 16th century: via Latin from Greek aposiōpēsis, from aposiōpan ‘be silent’.