Figure Name enthymeme
Source Silva Rhetoricae (http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/Silva.htm); Ad Herennium 4.30.41 ("conclusio"); Quintilian 5.14.24 ; JG Smith (1665) ("enthymema"); De Mille (1882); Demetrius (1902); Bullinger (1898) ("enthymema; or omission of premiss")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms conclusio, syllogism, enthymema, omission of premiss
Etymology Gk. "a thought, a consideration"
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Lexicographic

1. The informal method of reasoning typical of rhetorical discourse. The enthymeme is sometimes defined as a "truncated syllogism" since either the major or minor premise found in that more formal method of reasoning is left implied. The enthymeme typically occurs as a conclusion coupled with a reason. When several enthymemes are linked together, this becomes sorites. (Silva Rhetoricae)
1. A figure of speech which bases a conclusion on the truth of its contrary. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Conception of the mind; an Euthymem or imperfect syllogism, wherein the Major or Minor proposition being wanting, is looked for.; Enthymema, animi conceptus conception of the mind; derived from [enthymeomai] animo concipio, to conceive in the mind. An Enthymem is a form of speech, which Quintilian interpreteth a Comment, for that it may well be called the whole action and sentence of the mind; and it is, as Cicero saith, when the sentence concluded consisteth of contraries. When any part of the Syllogism is wanting, it is said to be an Enthymem. It is an imperfect or an unprofitable Syllogism, where one proposition is reserved in the mind, and not declared: or it is a Syllogism of one Proposition, in which one argument or proposition being laid down, the conclusion is inferred. "Enthymema est imperfectus Syllogismus; in qui nimirum Major Minor ve desideratur". It is an imperfect Syllogism; that is to say, such a Syllogism, wherein the Major or Minor being wanting is looked for.(JG Smith)

3. 367. ENTHYMEME.
All truths are either necessary or contingent. And example of the former may be found in mathematics, where the conclusions are either absolutely true or manifestly false. But in human affairs this "mathematical" certainty is not attainable, and we must be satisfied with something less. With necessary truths rhetoric has little or nothing to do, for these admit of no dispute. Its sphere comprises that wide extent of probabilities upon which the human intellect is continually exercising its powers.
There is an important difference between rhetoric and logic as to the form of reasoning respectively employed. Logic exhibits proof by means of a certain form called syllogism; rhetoric attains to proof be means of the enthymeme. (De Mille)

4. The enthymeme is a thought expressed either controversially or consequentially. The 'enthymeme' differs from the period in the fact that the latter is a rounded structure, from which indeed it derives its name ; while the former finds its meaning and existence in the thought. The period comprehends the enthymeme in the same way as other subject-matter. In general, the enthymeme is a kind of rhetorical
syllogism. (Demetrius)

5. In Syllogismus, the premisses are stated, but the conclusion is omitted; while, in Enthymema, the conclusion is stated and one or both or the premisses omitted. Both are alike, therefore, in being an abbreviated Syllogism. (Bullinger, 176)


1. We cannot trust this man, for he has perjured himself in the past.
In this enthymeme, the major premise of the complete syllogism is missing:
a) Those who perjure themselves cannot be trusted. (Major premise - omitted)
b) This man has perjured himself in the past. (Minor premise - stated)
c) This man is not to be trusted. (Conclusion - stated) (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. If to be foolish is evil, then it is virtuous to be wise. (This also an example of chiasmus). (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. If great wealth brings cares, and poverty misery, then the mean between these two extreams is a great blessing. (JG Smith)

4. 'Just as you would not have made this proposal if any of the former parties had been convicted, so if you are convicted now no one will do so in future.' (Demetrius)

5. "Have thou nothing to do with that just man." -Matt. 27:19 Here the fire. and feeling, and rugency of Pilate's wife is all the more forcible, in that she does not stop to formulate a tame, cold argument, but she omits the major premiss; which is greatly emphasized by being left for Pilate to supply. The complete Syllogism would have been:
1. It is very wicked to punish a just or innocent man.
2. Jesus is a just man.
3. Have therefore nothing to do with punishing him.
The conclusion thus contains the proof of each of the premisses on which it rests. Thus is emphasized one of the four testimonies borne to the innocence of the Lord Jesus by Gentiles at the time of His condemnation.
1. Pilate's wife (Matt. 27:19).
2. Pilate himself, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person" (Matt. 27:24).
3. The dying malefactor, "This man hath done nothing amiss" (Luke 23:41).
4. The Centurion, "Certainly this was a righteous man" (Luke 23:47). (Bullinger, 177-178)

Kind Of Omission
Part Of
Related Figures figures of reasoning, aetiologia, anthypophora, apophasis, contrarium, prosapodosis, proecthesis, ratiocinatio, figures of amplification, chiasmus, period, syllogismus
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ashley Rose Kelly
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes added chiasmus as related figure. should this be included? (unsure how chiasmus is related. -ark) "syllogismus" added to related figures. all entries _must_ use the correct delimiters. see help file. -ark
Reviewed No