Figure Name paronomasia
Source Silva Rhetoricae; Ad Herennium 300-304; Ad Herennium 4.21-22.29-31 ("adnominatio"); Rutil. 1.3; Isidore 1.36.12; Fraunce (1588) 1.24 ("paronomasia," "agnominatio," "allusion"); Putt. (1589) 212 ("prosonomasia," "the nicknamer"); Day 1599 86 ("prosonomasia"); Hoskins (1599)15; JG Smith (1665) ("paronomasia"); Holmes (1806) ("paronomasia"); De Mille (1882); Waddy (1889)("pun"); Bullinger (1898) ("paronomasia; or rhyming-words")' Vickers (1989) ("paronomasia")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms punning, prosonomasia, pun, rhyming-words
Etymology Gk. para, "alongside" and onomos, "name" ("to alter slightly in naming")
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Phonological

1. Using words that sound alike but that differ in meaning (punning). (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. The figure in which, by means of a modification of sound, or change of letters, a close resemblance to a given verb or noun is produced, so that similar words express dissimilar things. (Ad Herennium)

3. likenesse of words: a figure when by the change of one letter or syllable in a word, the signification also is much altered, &c. (JG Smith)

4. Paronomasia to the sense alludes, When words but little vary'd it includes. (Holmes)

Wit is associated, as we have seen, with pointed language. It plays with words, and one form of such play is called paronomasia, which by some is classed among the figures of relativity. Two forms of this may be noticed; first, where it is made us of in a serious way; and, secondly, where the aim is the ridiculous.
1. The serious use.
This is common in all ages. Names were often given in this way. The figure is used in our Lord's words, "Thou art Peter," etc. Milton has an example of it in the words-
"To begrit the Almighty's throne,
Beseeching or besieging."
The conversation between Gregory the Great and the slave-merchants at Rome is a well-known case of the paronomasia, being more perceptible in the Latin than in the translation. The Puritans loved it, and their works abound in examples. (De Mille)

5. 451. THE PUN.
2. The ridiculous use of the play upon words is more familiar.
The name antanaclasis was often given to this in ancient times. In English it is known by the name of the pun. (De Mille)

There are several other figures which may be named here: Syllepsis, paronomasia, annominatio, and antanaclasis. These are all of the nature of tropes, and by allowing some particular term to be taken in two senses-literal or metaphorical-they give rise to what is called a "play on words." They all have the same general characteristics, and will be considered farther on. (De Mille)

6. A Pun is an unexpected relation between words, or a play on words. It is an inferior species of wit, and one which is often carried to a tiresome excess; yet it can not be denied that puns are sometimes very effective.(Waddy)

7. The Repetition of Words similar in Sound, but not necessarily in Sense... [see Etymology] The figure is so-called because one word is places alongside of another, which sounds and seems like a repetition of it. But it is not the same ; it is only similar. The meaning may be similar or not, the point is that two (or more) words are different in origin and meaning, but are similar in sound or appearance. (Bullinger, 325)

8. PARONOMASIA. Paronomasia, a likeness of words; derived from the Greek (para,) which in composition, signifies with alteration, and (onoma, ) a name, from, (paranomazo,) to change or allude to a name. This Figure employs the same word to a very different purpose, and sometimes it changes one letter or syllable of a word to another sense and signification. (Norwood, 72)

9. Paronomasia (agnominatio or allusio), where, two or more words are used in proximity which are similar in sound but different in sense. (Vickers 497)


1. A jesting friar punned upon the name of the famous humanist Erasmus, "Errans mus" [erring mouse]. —Puttenham (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. A pun is its own reword. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. (1) "Hie qui se magnifice iactat atque ostentat, venit antequam Romam venit" (Ad Herennium)

2. (2) "Hie quos homines alea vincit, eos ferro
statim vincit" (Ad Herennium)

2. (3) "Hinc avium dulcedo ducit ad avium" (Ad Herennium)

2. (4) "Hie, tametsi videtur esse honoris cupidus, tantum tamen curiam diligit quantum Ciiriam?" (Ad Herennium)

2. (5) "Hie sibi posset temperare, nisi amori
mallet obtemperare"

2. (6) "Si lenones vitasset tamquam leones, vitae tradidisset se" (Ad Herennium)

2. (7) "Videte, iudices, utrum homini navo an vano credere malitis" (Ad Herennium)

2. (8) "Deligere oportet quern velis
dilicrere." (Ad Herennium)

4. Friends are turned Friends. (Holmes)

6. The following are examples:
Sydney Smith, hearing a boy read of patriarchs as partridges, declared, "It is too bad to make game of them." (Waddy)

6. Observing on a board the warning, "Beware the dog," Hood wrote underneath, "Ware by the dog?" (Waddy)

6. Dean Ramsay tells of a soaked Scotch minister who was rubbed down at the kirk, and told he need not fear; he would be dry enough when he got into the pulpit. (Waddy)

6. The Romans were said to urn their dead, but we earn our living. (Waddy)

7. Gen. 4:25. -"She called his name Seth (in Hebrew, Sheth). For God, said she, hath appointed (in Hebrew sheth, "set") me a seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew." (Bullinger, 326)

8. Matt. 8. 22. Let the dead bury their dead: the first words signify a moral death, those that are dead, in trespasses and sins; but, the last imply a natural death, such as are dead and departed this life. (Norwood, 73)

8. 2 Cor. 10. 3. Though we walk in the flesh, yet we do not war after the flesh: though we are men, and made in the same fashion like other men; yet in this respect we differ from them, for we place no confidence in the arm of flesh, no assistance from the world, but all our sufficiency is from God. (Norwood, 73)

9. Mad in pursuit and in possession so.
--Shakespeare, "Sonnet 129" (Vickers 497)

Kind Of Similarity
Part Of
Related Figures adnominatio, polyptoton, antanaclasis
Notes "Paronomasia is accomplished by many different methods: (1) by thinning or contracting the same letters, (2) by extending the same letters, (3) by lengthening the same letter, (4)by shortening the same letter, (5) by adding letters, (6) by omitting letters, (7) by transposing letters, (8) by changing letters." (Ad Herennium)
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No