Figure Name asteismus
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Rufin; Bede 616-618; Susenbrotus (1540) 16 ("asteismus," "astysmus," "astismus," "urbanitas"); Sherry (1550) 46 ("astysmus," ""urbanitas"); Peacham (1577) D4r; Putt. (1589) 200 (#1—"asteismus," "the merry scoffe or the civill jest"); JG Smith (1665) ("astismus"); Holmes (1806) ("asteismus"); Bullinger (1898) ("asteismos; or, politeness") ("asteïsmos; or, urbanity")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms asteios, asteismos, astysmus, astismus, facetia, urbanitas, the merry scoffe, civille jest, urbanity, politeness, asteïmos
Etymology from Gk. asteios, "of the city" from astu "city"
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. Polite or genteel mockery. More specifically, a figure of reply in which the answerer catches a certain word and throws it back to the first speaker with an unexpected twist.
Less frequently, a witty use of allegory or comparison, such as when a literal and an allegorical meaning are both implied (see Bede). (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. A civil and pleasant jest. Astismus, Vrbanitas sine iracundiâ, a kinde of civill jest without prejudice or anger; derived from [asteios] urbanus festivus, civil or pleasant. It is a kinde of an Irony consisting of a pleasant and harmelesse jest: it is taken for any mirth or pleasant speech void of rustical simpliSingle illegible letterity and rudenesse. (JG Smith)

3. Asteismus loves to jest with strokes of wit, And slily with the point of satyr hit. (Holmes)

4. Addition by graceful disclosure of what is professedly concealed... The figure is used when, by pretending to conceal something, the speaker adds some graceful language which discloses it. It comes in here when it is used as an addition by way of reasoning. We have included it also in Figures involving change, where the application of words is affected by way of feeling. (Bullinger, 494)

4. An Expression of Feeling by way of Politeness... the polite and genteel expressions of society: Urbanity as opposed to Rusticity. It is used as a change involving the application of words by way of expression of feeling. (Bullinger, 897)


1. In the following selection from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice and Benedick vie to see which can outdo the other in the use of asteismus:

Benedick: God keep your ladyship still in that mind! [of not marrying] so some gentleman or other shall scape a predestinate scratch'd face.
Beatrice: Scratching could not make it worse, an 't were such a face as yours were.
Benedick: Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
Beatrice: A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.
—Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing 1.1:133-140 (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. The merry and pleasant sayings incident hereunto are called Facetia (i.e.) the pleasures and delights of speech which are taken from divers places.
To one that said, he knew not if he should be ejected his house, where to hide his head: another made him answer, that he might hide it in his cap. (JG Smith)

3. Who hates not Bavius Verses, let him love Maevlus's; and he that loves either, let him milk He-goats. (Holmes)

Kind Of Addition
Part Of
Related Figures sarcasm, irony, paronomasia
Notes from Gk. asteios, "of the city" Also sp. asteismos, astysmus, astismus facetia, urbanitas the merry scoffe, civille jest, urbanity
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes fixed synonyms, related figures
Reviewed No