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Definition: A figure of speech that uses imagery in a non-literal context. Think of people travelling from Europe to America as referring to going across the pond. Despite the comparison to a pond, the Atlantic Ocean is, in reality, somewhat larger …

Pronunciation: Trohp

Origin: Trope entered the English language in the early 16th century – but it has very strong Indo-European roots, with early versions of the word appearing in Greek, Latin and Sanskrit. In these languages, the word referred to the idea of ‘turning’ – i.e., to turn a word to a new meaning.

Why this word?

This is Chrissy’s fault. She suggested the word Cul de Sac – but it is not really an unused word. Although it is rare in most of North America, it is in common usage in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

An interesting phrase in itself, it refers to a road that comes to an end (a no-‘through road’). Interestingly, this is an example of a word that came to the English language from another (Norman French), but, although retained in English, is no longer in common usage in French. It translates, rather colorfully as ‘Ass of the bag‘ – a meaning that presumably refers to a road that is like a bag – one way in, one way out. It is, however, a good example of a trope.

Another interesting, but largely useless, fact about this word: it has a difficult plural. While Culs de Sac is the preferred, Cul de Sacs is acceptable.

Given that this was such an interesting word, it seemed a shame to leave it untouched. Thus, we decided to use the term for such a word, Trope.

How to use this word in a sentence?

It is one of those words that a word-lover needs to know. The next time someone describes the government as ‘Those folks down in Washington’ or your boss as the ‘Big Cheese’ – you can complement them on their use of trope … provided, that is, that he isn’t employed for some reason by a wheel of Gouda.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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