Definition of topos in US English:



  • A traditional theme or formula in literature.

    • ‘In persuasive song and epideictic speech alike, however, the use of the topoi of praise and blame, coupled with the substitution of performance for evidence, remains interesting to the student of political rhetoric.’
    • ‘These are traditional Renaissance topoi of the fortune-telling of the natural world; nonetheless, they underscore the patriarchal view of Egypt's troubles as stemming, naturally, from women.’
    • ‘In entering intellectual life contrary to patriarchal norms, women in turn can be seen as consolidating another norm, which, although ‘feminine,’ combines old and new genealogies for topoi of disembodiment.’
    • ‘In the Anatomy, ideas, topoi, modes, and kinds fell into co-ordinated, complementary distributions, or lattice-work of dialectical oppositions and counterparts.’
    • ‘‘A Century's Aged, Worn-out Children’ summarizes what has gone before by identifying a series of changes that define the fourteenth century and underlie its characteristic forms and topoi.’
    • ‘Yet the ‘code’ of mythological topoi does not suggest fixed meanings and interpretations allegorically assigned to the mythical stories.’
    • ‘Isocrates cannot simply repeat the topoi of Athenian speeches in praise of the city.’
    • ‘Clearly, then, by the middle of the 1860s certain Chinese topoi had emerged in the poetry composed in Parnassian circles.’
    • ‘These three topoi can be varied in countless ways to create a riveting narrative.’
    • ‘This embedded chain of monuments builds a meaningful sequence of events, turning the wild nature of death into mythical history based on Renaissance topoi and Homeric myth.’
    • ‘Irony has a critical function against an empty or insipid Romanticism and romantic topoi, for instance the Parisian dream and, moreover, the Orient that has become a commonplace.’
    • ‘He supported his argument with familiar anti-Athenian topoi.’
    • ‘Moreover, this pattern of resemblance is rendered still more striking by the prominent appearance of mock-heroic topoi and diction in both poems.’
    • ‘Although the ‘Elegy’ references the topoi of pastoral elegy, it steers far clear of its traditional end.’
    • ‘In other words, the usual epideictic speech inculcates values, while these political songs employed values as topoi for a purpose more typical of deliberative speech.’
    • ‘Action is the masculine force of narrative, femininity the topoi and telos of its trajectory.’
    • ‘Perhaps most usefully, however, the book offers a repertoire of rhetorical suggestions, topoi for the specific topic of rhetoric (hence the Aristotelian force of the title-it is a Rhetoric of Rhetoric for rhetoricians).’
    • ‘In this sense, his amalgamated rhetoric fuses a wide variety of traditions, topoi, and strategies in service of persuasion fashioned to galvanize oppositional thought in a common cause.’
    • ‘These songs appealed to common ground and shared values as topoi, but not as uplifting principles for emulation.’
    • ‘Scenarios, incidentally, that depend generally on language for their structure and arguably literature for their topoi.’


1940s: from Greek, literally ‘place’.