Let’s Talk About… Pleonasms

Webster’s New International Dictionary defines redundancy as “the generic term for the use of more words than are needed to express one’s meaning.”


A pleonasm is the rhetorical term for redundancy, specifically talking about words that could be eliminated and yet the meaning of the phrase would be the same.

Pronounced “PLEE-uh-naz’m” it comes through Latin from the Greek pleonasmos, abundance, which comes in turn from pleonazein, to be excessive, and pleion, more.

There are different types of pleonasms (such as double negatives), since it is often used purposely for a specific linguistic effect. But there are some pleonasms that we use in everyday life without realizing that we are being redundant.

So here is a list of redundant words and phrases that make us redundant when speaking without realizing we are being redundant (see what I did there?):

  • Tuna Fish: We already know that tuna is a fish
  • ATM Machine: Automatic Teller Machine Machine
  • PIN Number: Personal Identification Number Number
  • Safe Haven: A safe safe place
  • Null and Void: A legal term, they both mean the same thing
  • Terms and Conditions: See above
  • Cease and Desist: See above again
  • Free Gift: A gift is always free
  • Raise your hands up: If you raise them, they are already up
  • Nape of the neck: You only have one nape and it’s already on your neck
  • Head honcho: Borrowed from Japanese, honcho means “leader” or “head of the group”, so you are saying the head head of the group
  • Frozen Tundra: Tundra, by definition, is frozen
  • Advance planning:  Planning is always done in advance
  • Poisonous venom: Venom, by definitions, is poisonous already
  • Unexpected Surprise: Isn’t it obvious by now?


What other pleonasms do you know?


(Resources: Wikipedia, Authors Guild, Mental Floss, Fun with Words)

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