Meaning of Catachresis (What it is, Concept and Definition)

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catachresis is a figure of speech of the Portuguese language, which conceptualizes the use of a given term outside its original context to figuratively name something that does not have a specific name.

The expression “boarding the plane”, for example, originally the term “boarding” was used only to refer to the act of entering a boat. Currently, however, it can be used for any means of transport.

Unlike other figures of speech, used as linguistic tools that help to enrich a text, making it more expressive or poetic, catachresis is usually used essentially to facilitate the daily communicative process between people.

Examples of catachresis

  • Garlic clove
  • nail head
  • cheekbone
  • cup handle
  • Palate
  • Dash of olive oil
  • tomato skin
  • mouth of the tunnel
  • Calf
  • chair arm

Etymologically, "catachresis" derives from the Latin catachresis, which in turn originates from the Greek katakhresis, which means “misuse” or “improper use”. In this case, the original meaning of this figure of speech is “the misuse of the word”.

Learn more about the meaning of Figures of Language and see some examples.

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