Definition of topos in US English:


nounPlural topoi

  • A traditional theme or formula in literature.

    • ‘Yet the ‘code’ of mythological topoi does not suggest fixed meanings and interpretations allegorically assigned to the mythical stories.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Moreover, this pattern of resemblance is rendered still more striking by the prominent appearance of mock-heroic topoi and diction in both poems.’
    • ‘In the Anatomy, ideas, topoi, modes, and kinds fell into co-ordinated, complementary distributions, or lattice-work of dialectical oppositions and counterparts.’
    • ‘He supported his argument with familiar anti-Athenian topoi.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Action is the masculine force of narrative, femininity the topoi and telos of its trajectory.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Although the ‘Elegy’ references the topoi of pastoral elegy, it steers far clear of its traditional end.’
    • ‘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).’
    • ‘Clearly, then, by the middle of the 1860s certain Chinese topoi had emerged in the poetry composed in Parnassian circles.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘These three topoi can be varied in countless ways to create a riveting narrative.’
    • ‘These songs appealed to common ground and shared values as topoi, but not as uplifting principles for emulation.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Scenarios, incidentally, that depend generally on language for their structure and arguably literature for their topoi.’
    • ‘Isocrates cannot simply repeat the topoi of Athenian speeches in praise of the city.’


1940s: from Greek, literally ‘place’.