Aposiopesis

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(This page forms part of a Course in Figures of Speech. You can find an introduction to it at Figures of Speech course. This page can stand on its own, as well. You may have accessed it from a page on a particular example.)

Aposiopesis (pronounced 'a-po-sigh-oh-PEA-sis', IPA: /ˌa pəʊ saɪ əʊ ˈpiː sɪs/) is 'a rhetorical artifice, in which the speaker comes to a sudden halt, as if unable or unwilling to proceed.' Aposiopesis may be used for various reasons, e.g., for emphasis: it may imply that what is left unsaid is too terrible or too disgusting to be put into words.

There is a rare adjective aposiopetic.

Etymological note: The English word aposiopesis is a transliteration of the Greek ὰποσιώπησις (aposiŏpĕsis), a noun which comes from the verb ὰποσιωπᾶν (aposiōpān, ‘to stop speaking, remain silent’) and has the same meaning as its English descendant.