Figure Name apostrophe
Source Silva Rhetoricae (http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/Silva.htm); Ad Herennium 4.15.22 ("exclamatio"); Quintilian 9.2.38-39 ("aversio"); Aquil. 9 ("apostrophe," "aversio"); Sherry (1550) 60 ("apostrophe," "aversio," "aversion"); Peacham (1577) M4v; Putt. (1589) 244 ("apostrophe," "the turne tale"); Day 1599 90 ("apostrophe," "aversio") ; Melanchthon (1523) C8v ; JG Smith (1665) ("apostrophe"); Ad Herennium 282-284; Vinsauf (1967) ("apostrophe (apostrophatio, exclamatio)"); Hart (1874) 167; Macbeth (1876); Gibbons (1767) 213 ("apostrophe"); Holmes (1806) ("apostrophe"); Bain (1867) 60 ("apostrophe"); De Mille (1882) ("apostrophe," "salutation"); Hill (1883); Waddy (1889); Jamieson (1844) 174; Blount (1653) 44; Raub (1888) 213; Bullinger (1898) ("apostrophe"); Johnson (1903) ("apostrophe"); Norwood (1742) ("apostrophe"); Kellog (1880) ("apostrophe"); Henry Home Lord of Kames (1870) ("apostrophe"); Vickers (1989) ("apostrophe (or aversio)")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms prosphonesis, aversio, the turne tale, apostrophatio, salutation
Etymology Gk. apo "away from" and strephein "to turn"
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. Turning one's speech from one audience to another. Most often, apostrophe occurs when one addresses oneself to an abstraction, to an inanimate object, or to the absent. Since this figure often involves emotion, it can overlap with exclamatio. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. A turning away or dislike; a diversion of speech to another person, then the speech appointed did require.; Apostrophe, aversio, a turning away or dislike: derived from [apo] from, and [strepho] verto, to turn. Apostrophe is a diversion of speech to another person then the speech appointed did intend or require; or it is a turning of the speech from one person to another, many times abruptly. A figure when we break off the course of our speech, [Note in marg: This Exsornation hath some affinitie with Prosopopoeia] and speak to some new person, present, or absent, as to the people, or witnesses, when it was before directed to the Judges, or Opponent. This Diversion of speech is made these nine wayes; viz. (1) To God, (2) to Angels, (3) to men in their several ranks, whether absent or present, dead or alive, (4) to the adversary, (5) to the heavenly bodies and Meteors, (6) to the earth and things in it, (7) to the Sea and things in it, (8) to beasts, birds and fishes (9) to inanimate things.(JG Smith)

3. Expresses grief or indignation by means of an address to some man or city or place or object. (Ad Herennium)

4. Apostrophe, is a forme of speech by which the Orator turneth suddenly from the former frame of his speech to another, that is, when he hath long spoken of some person or thing, he leaveth speaking of it, and speaketh unto it, which is no other thing than a sudden removing from the third person to the second. (Peacham)

5. 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. The same excited state of feeling which causes Exclamation leads also to Apostrophe. The word means turning away. It is a figure in which we turn from the regular course of thought, and instead of continuing to speak of an object in the third person, speak to it in the second person. (Hart)

7. The important form Apostrophe comes next: a turning aside from the regular course of the subject to address some person or thing. (Macbeth)

8. "a Figure in which we interrupt the current of our discourse, and turn to another person, or to some other object, different from that to which our address was first directed." (Gibbons)

9. Apostrophe from greater themes or less, Doth turn aside, to make a short address. (Holmes)

10. "consists in addressing something absent, as if present…. It supposes great intensity of emotion." (Bain)

11 a) 116. APOSTROPHE.
Apostrophe is an address to the absent or dead, as though really present. (De Mille)

11 b) 198. SALUTATION.
A certain kind of exclamation is called "salutation." It is often intermingled with apostrophe, and is a salutatory address to the dead or absent. (De Mille)

12. (3) Apostrophe.- In the higher flights of imagination, the absent are conceived of a present, the inanimate as living, the abstract as personal, and are directly addressed. This figure is clearly allied to personification, with which it is often combined. (Hill)

13. Apostrophe (Gr., meaning "to turn away"), is a figure of speech in which the speaker turns aside from the natural course of his ideas to address the absent or dead as if present, to address former ages, future ages, or the abstract as personal. (Waddy)

14. "a turning off from the regular course of the subject to address some person or thing. Apostrophe, derived from the same source with personification, is the joint work of imagination and passion, but demands not generally so bold an exertion of those faculties as personification." (Jamieson)

15. "a turning of your speech to some new person, as to the people or witnesses, when it was before to the Judges or Defendant" (Blount)

16. "Apostrophe is a figure in which the absent is addressed as though present. It sometimes also addresses the inanimate as though living. The word 'apostrophe' means a turning away. The figure is therefore one in which we turn from the regular manner of speaking, and address the object in an impassioned manner. There can be no apostrophe without intense feeling." (Raub)

17. A Turning Aside from the direct Subject-Matter at address others... The figure is so called when the speaker turns away from the real auditory whom he is addressing, and speaks to an imaginary one. It is a sudden breaking off in the course of speech, diverting it to some new person or thing... The examples of the use of this figure may be arranged as follows:-
1. Definite.
2. One's self.
3. Indefinite.
4. In prophecies.
IV. TO INANIMATE THINGS. (Bullinger, 885)

18. Apos'trophe.—In this figure the discourse is directed and pointedly addressed to some particular person or thing... This figure belongs mainly to poetry and impassioned oratory. (Johnson, 38)

19. APOSTROPHE. Apostrophe, a turning away, or a dislike; from the Greek, (apo, from, and shepho, verto: it is a diversion of our discourse to another person, than we intended first of all, to make our applications; thus a man, who is in a violent transport of passion, turns himself on all sides, and makes his addresses from this, to another person, whom he thinks at least, will be more favourable, to the cause of his complaining; nay, sometimes he appeals to the most insensible things, to the heavens, to the earth; and in the fury of his passion, makes no difference and difference; and sometimes, like a mere child, quarrels with any thing, without cause or reason. (Norwood, 86-87)

20. An apostrophe is a figure of speech in which the absent are addressed as though present, and the inanimate as though intelligent and present. In the address to inanimate things-the form of the figure must common-,these are, of course, personified. The essential difference between the two figures, apostrophe and personification, is the address. Objects personified are carried up toward or the rank of persons, but are not addressed; objects apostrophized, whether already persons or made such by the figure, are addressed. (Kellog, 123)

21. To bestow a momentary presence upon a sensible being who is absent. (Henry Home Lord of Kames, 373)

22. Apostrophe (or aversio), a turning of speech from one topic or person to another, often for emotional emphasis. (Vickers 492)


1. Antony addresses Caesar's corpse immediately following the assasination in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:
O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.
—Shakespeare, Julius Caesar 3.1.254-257 (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. To the people thus,

Now let me entreat any man here present, that thinks himself not exempted from the like wrong, but lyable to the like prejudice, to imagine himself in my case, and to undertake for my sake some few thoughts of my distress.

Herein you witnesses are to consult with your own consciences, and to enter into a true examination of your own memory. (JG Smith)

3. "It is you I now address, Africanus, whose name even in death means splendour and glory to the state! It is your famous grandsons who by their own blood have fed the cruelty of their enemies." (Ad Herennium)

3. "Perfidious Fregellae, how quickly, because of your crime, you have wasted away! As a result, of the city whose brilliance but yesterday irradiated Italy, scarce the debris of the foundations now remains." (Ad Herennium)

3. "Plotters against good citizens, villains, you have sought the life of every decent man! Have you assumed such power for your slanders thanks to the perversions of justice?" (Ad Herennium)

4. Cicero in his Orations, hath plentie of examples of this figure, where sometimes he speaketh to Dolabella. Antony, and others being absent as if they were present, by this figure also the Orator turneth from his direct passage, to entertaine some historie or Apologie, which are fit for his purpose, but the most usuall forme of this figure, is in turning our speech from the third person to the second.

When the LORD by his Prophet Ofe had long complained of Israel, he leaveth speaking of Israel and speaketh to Israel saying: O Israel thine iniquitie hath undone thee. (Peacham)

6. "O, my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Abaslom, my son, my son!" - 2 Sam. 1: 21-27 (Hart)

7. Alluding to this bird's following of spring round the world, he breaks into this apostrophe:
"Sweet bird! Thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear.
Thou has no sorrow in thy song,
No winter in thy year."
- Michael Bruce (Macbeth)

8. "[Cicero] furnishes us with another Apostrophe, when he says, speaking in the praise of Pompey, 'I call upon you, mute regions, you most distance countries, you seas, havens, islands, and shores: for what coast, what Land, what place is there, in which the lively traces of his courage, humanity, greatness, and wisdom, are not extant?'" (Gibbons)

9. Thus he possessed the gold by violence! Oh! cursed thirst of gold! what wickedness dost thou not influence men's minds to perpetrate. (Holmes)

10. "as when an orator invokes some hero of other times, or a preacher appeals to angels and departed saints. …'O death, where is thy sting!' 'O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet!'" (Bain)

11. "How shall I know thee in the sphere which keeps
The disembodied spirits of the dead?" -BRYANT. (De Mille)

11. Milton's address to Shakespeare is a well-known instance:
"What needs my Shakespeare for his honored bones?
The labor of an age in piled stones?
* * * * * * * *
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame!" (De Mille)

12. The national hymn "America" is in the apostrophic form, and how much it owes to this may be seen by construction a parody, altering
"My country, 'tis of thee,"
to the third person. The use of this figure presupposes elevated emotion, and would be absurd without it. (Hill)

13. Objects personified are not addressed; objects apostrophized, whether already persons, or made such by the figure, are addressed. The following are examples: "O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee"; "O Rome, Rome thou has been a tender nurse to me!" (Waddy)

14. "In the tragedy of Douglas, Lady Randolph thus accounts for the loss of her son: 'That very night in which my son was born, / My nurse, the only confident I had, / Set out with him to reach her sister's house; / But nurse nor infant have I ever seen, / Nor heard of Anna since that fatal hour. / My murder'd child! Had thy fond mother feared / The loss of thee, she had loud fame defied, / Despised her father's rage, her father's grief, / And wander'd with the through the scorning world.'" (Jamieson)

15. "Herein you witnesses are to consult with your own consciences, and to enter into a true examination of your own memory. Did you mark his looks? Did you note his speeches? Did you truly conceive the particular proceedings of the Action?" (Blount)

16. "O my son Absalom! My, son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee!" (Raub)

17. [ex. of I.] Neh. 4:4 (3:36). -Nehmiah turns from his description of the opposition of his enemies to address God (by Apostrophe) in prayer: "Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head," etc.

17. [ex. of II. 1.] 2 Sam. 1:24, 25. -In David's lament over Saul and Jonathan, he suddenly turns, and, (in verse 24), addresses the daughter of Israel. And in verse 25 he turns from these to dead Johnathan. (Bullinger, 886)

17. [e. of II. 2.] Ps. 103:1, 22. -"Bless the LORD, O my soul." (Bullinger, 887)

17. [ex. of II. 3.] Ps. 27:14. -After prayer to God for himself, David turns and addresses anymore who is in like circumstances, and exhorts him. "Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I way, on the LORD." (Bullinger, 887)

17. [ex. of II. 4.] Isa. 6:9. -"And he said, Go, and tell this people, 'Hear ye indeed, but understand not,'" etc. (Bullinger, 888)

17. [ex. of III.] Joel 2:22. -"Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field," etc. (Bullinger, 888)

17. [ex. of IV.]Ps. 114:5. -"What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back? Ye mountains that ye skipped like rams? and ye little hills, like lambs? Tremble, thou earth at the presence of the Lord (Adon), at the presence of the God (Eloah) of Jacob." (Bullinger, 888)

18. Ossian's address to the sun is an example: ''O thou who rollest above, round as the shield of my fathers ! Whence are thy beams, O sun, thy everlasting light?" Blanco White's sonnet on Night is an apostrophe, and Byron's address to the ocean in Childe Harold is another fine example. (Johnson, 38)

19. Psal. 114. 5. What aileth thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest:? Or thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back? The prophet asks the waters themselves, what was the reason of the wonderful ebb of the Red Sea; or the standing still or partitions of the river Jordan: and in the vehemency of his passion, seems to expect from them a suitable answer; why, says he, were you so very sensible of fear, when like trembling and amazed persons, you left your places, and as it were, made up a wall on either side; as if you had forgot your natures, and were no longer fluid and moving; tell me then, what ailed you? (Norwood, 90)

21. "Helena: ... Poor lord! is't I
That chase thee from thy country and expose
Those tender limbs of thine to the event
Of the none-sparing war? and is it I
That drive thee from sportive court, where thou
Wast shot at with fair eyes, to be the mark
Of smokey muskets? O you leaden messengers,
that ride upon the violent speed of fire,
Fly with false aim, move the still-piecing air
That sings with piercing, do not touch my lord!"
—Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well, Act 3, Scene 3 (Henry Home Lord of Kames)

22. Within a month . . .
She married—O most wicked speed: to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets . . .
--Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1.2.153 (Vickers 492)

Kind Of Identity
Part Of
Related Figures figures of pathos, personification, anacoenosis, figures of permission, figures of amplification, exclamatio, exclamation
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes Type Of is applicable insofar as the inanimate object is identified as the audience. Also, I agree, the type is a Trope. 'Type of' not applicable and not totally sure about 'type'
Reviewed No