Definition of paronomasia in US English:



  • A play on words; a pun.

    • ‘Michael Wood's essay, clearly a labor of love, discusses Guillermo Cabrera Infante's Tres tristes tigres, as well as its ambitious translation, concentrating on the author's Joycean ‘besetting virtue,’ paronomasia.’
    • ‘This run of pointed paronomasia comes to a head in ‘fetters,’ which gathers to itself the accumulated sense, minted in the interests of others, of discursive abstractions that bind.’
    • ‘That humorous lyric mentioned earlier, ‘You can't have your Kate and Edith, too’ and the song ‘Overnight Male’ demonstrate paronomasia, use of words alike in sound but different in meaning.’
    • ‘Here, as throughout the poem, her paronomasia acts as a device for eliciting the sensitive connections between words and our physical response to them.’
    • ‘The last example also contains paronomasia; here, the pun is on possessed meaning both having come into possession and unreasonably determined.’


Late 16th century: via Latin from Greek paronomasia, from para- ‘beside’ (expressing alteration) + onomasia ‘naming’ (from onomazein ‘to name’, from onoma ‘a name’).