Monday, July 15, 2013


Catachresis (from Greek κατάχρησις, "abuse") is "misapplication of a word, especially in a mixed metaphor" according to the Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. Another meaning is to use an existing word to denote something that has no name in the current language. Catachresis is a very common habit, and can have both positive and negative effects on language: on the one hand, it helps a language evolve and overcome poverty of expression; on the other, it can lead to miscommunications or make the language of one era incompatible with that of another. Catachresis is more a linguistic phenomenon than a figure of speech.

Compare malapropism and solecism, which are unintentional violations of the norms, while catachresis may be either deliberate or unintentional.

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