Figure Name ecphonesis
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Ad Herennium 4.15.22 ("exclamatio"); Sherry (1550) 50 ("epiphonesis," "exclamacio," "exclamacion"); Peacham (1577) K4r; Putt. (1589) 221 ("ecphonisis," "the outcry"); Day 1599 89 ("ecphonesis," "exclamatio"); JG Smith (1665) ("ecphonesis"); Garrett Epp (1994) ("exclamatio," "apostrophe"); Gibbons (1767) 128 ("ecphonesis"); Vinsauf (1967) ("apostrophe (apostrophatio, exclamatio)"); Vinsauf (1967) ("exclamatio"); Macbeth (1876) ("exclamation," "ecphonesis," "epiphonema"); Holmes (1806) ("ecphonesis"); Bullinger (1898) ("ecphonesis; or, exclamation"); Johnson (1903) ("ecphonesis"); Norwood (1742) ("ecphonesis"); Vickers (1989) ("ecphonesis (or exclamatio)")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms ecphonisis, epiphonesis, exclamatio, outcry, apostrophe, exclamation, anaphonesis
Etymology Gk. ek, "out" and phonein, "to speak"
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. An emotional exclamation. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Ecphonesis of the Latines called Exclamatio, is a forme of speech by which the orator through some vehement affection, as either of love, hatred, gladnesse, sorrow, anger, marvelling, admiration, feare, or such like, bursteth foorth into an exclamation or outcrie, signifying thereby the vehement affection or passion of his mind. (Peacham)

3. Exclamation.; Ecphonesis, Exclamatio, Exclamation, or a crying out: derived from [ecphoneo] exclamo, to cry out. Ecphonesis is a pathetical figure, whereby as the Orator or speaker expresses the vehement affection and passion of his own mind, so he also excites and stirs up the minds and affections of those to whom he speaks. It is exprest or understood by an Adverb of crying out, as, Oh, alas, behold; which are the signs of this figure. (JG Smith)

4. An expression of grief or indignation, addressed to a person, place, or object. (Garrett Epp)

5. "a Figure that by an exclamation shows some strong and vehement passion. It is expressed by such Interjections as 'O!', 'Oh!', 'Ah!', 'Alas!', and the like" (Gibbons)

6. (Apostrophe) In order that you may travel the more spacious route, let apostrophe be a fourth mode of delay. By it you may cause the subject to linger on its way, and in it you may stroll for an hour. Take delight in apostrophe; without it the feast would be ample enough, but with it the courses of an excellent cuisine are multiplied. The splendour of dishes arriving in rich profusion and the leisured delay at the table are festive signs. With a variety of courses we feed the ear for a longer time and more lavishly. Here is food indeed for the ear when it arrives delicious and fragrant and costly. Example may serve to complement theory: the eye is a surer arbiter than the ear. One example is not enough; there will be an ample number; from this ample evidence learn what occasion suitably introduces apostrophe, what object it addresses, and in what form. (Vinsauf)

6. (Exclamatio) If a mode of expression both easy and adorned is desired, set aside all the techniques of the dignified style and recourse to means that are simple, but of a simplicity that does not shock the ear by its rudeness. Here are the rhetorical colours with which to adorn your style: (Vinsauf)

7. Exclamation, Ecphonesis, or, Epiphonema, are of frequent occurrence. Under this may be ranged very minute points in style, such as the throwing in of terms like "quotha," "on my word," "to be sure," "I tell you," "my life on it," "forsooth." Only let everything thing vulgar be avoided. (Macbeth)

8. By Ecphonesis straight the mind is rais'd, When by a sudden flow of passion seiz'd. (Holmes)

9. An Expression of Feeling by way of Exclamation... The figure is used when, through feeling, we change our mode of speech; and, instead of merely making a statement, express it by an exclamation. So that Ecphonesis is an outburst of words, prompted by emotion, and is not used as though any reply were expected. (Bullinger, 903)

10. Ecphone'sis.—This name is given to any exclamatory word or clause, considered as a figure of rhetoric, as, "Awake! arise! or be forever fallen!" (Johnson, 91)

11. ECPHONESIS. Ecphonesis, exclamation. This is a most pathetical sort of Figure, whereby the Orator discovers the excessive passion of his own mind, and so makes a suitable impression upon the affections of his audience. (Norwood, 74-75)

12. Ecphonesis (or exclamatio), the exclamation of extreme emotion such as anger, grief, admiration. (Vickers 493)


1. O tempora! O mores! (Cicero qtd. in Peacham)

2. O lord how gratious and sweet is thy spirit? (Solomon Sp.12. qtd. in Peacham) -- an example of love

2. Of Hatred? O most wicked presumption, from whence art thou sproong up to cover the earth with falshood and deceit? (Peacham)

2. Of joy or gladnesse, an example of the Apostle Paul: O Death where is thy sting? O Grave where is thy victorie? (Peacham)

2. O how joyfull a thing is mercy in the time of anguish and trouble? (Peacham)

2. Of sorrow, an example of Ieptha: Alas my daughter thou hast brought me low. (Peacham)

2. Of anger: O cursed tyrannie, O most detestable crueltie. (Peacham)

2. Of marvelling: O man what art thou? which disputest with God, & c. (Peacham)

2. Of feare: "O thou man of God flee such thinges." 1.Tim.6. (Peacham)

4. Eyes, look your last!

Arms, take your last embrace! and lips, O you

The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss

A dateless bargain to engrossing death! (R&J 5.3 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

3. Thus Pyrocles seeing the milde Philoclea innocently beheaded, bursts forth into this exclamation; "O Tyrant heaven, and Traytor earth, how is this done? How is this suffered? Hath this world a government? Alas what delights and how great enjoyments hath one day deprived thee of! Ah poor confidence! oh glorious triumphs over unarmed captives! Oh admirable clemency and mercy! Oh most wicked presumption, from whence art thou sprung up to cover the earth with falshood and deceit!" (JG Smith)

5. "[in Milton] Eve, being made acquainted that she must leave paradise, says, 'O unexpected stroke! worse than of death. '" (Gibbons)

7. The difference in words between an exclamatory way of statement and simple narrative may often be slight, yet the effect is very perceptible; as if Grahame, in his excellent poem, "The Sabbath," had written:
"Still is the morning of the hallowed day,"
instead of writing as he has done, in a way much more animated:
" How still the morning of the hallowed day!" (Macbeth)

8. Alas! Oh banished piety! Oh corrupted nation! (Holmes)

9. Isa. 6:5. -"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone"; etc. This is the true Ecphonesis of a convicted soul. A confession, not of what he has done, but of what he IS; as to nature, condition, and deserts. Of such an exclamation the result is ever (as recorded in the next verse) "THEN flew," etc. (Bullinger, 904)

11. Psal. 22. 1, 2. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not. (Norwood, 75)

11. Isai. 6. 5. Woe is me, for I am undone; thus, in a way of desperation, how is the prophet extremely sensible of his own unworthiness, as if he thought the forgiveness of his sin was now impossible; this was the dreadful apprehension of men in former times, when God did more sIgnally manifest himself, Deut. 5. 25. Judg. 6. 22. and 13. 22. (Norwood, 75)

12. O sides, you are too tough!
Will you yet hold?
--Shakespeare, King Lear, 2.4.197 (Vickers 493)

Kind Of
Part Of
Related Figures figures of pathos, figures of exclamation, figures of amplification, epiphonema
Notes I categorized this as Chroma because the purpose of the exclamation is to express emotion. I did not choose a domain because this figure does not relate to any of the domains. In particular, a person can make an exclamation using various words, but the focus would not be on the meaning of the word - instead it would be on the way it is expressed. Therefore, this does not fall under Semantic. I added linguistic cue "Exclamation"--is this appropriate? --MC
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No