Pleonasms: Redundant, repetitious phrases

Pleonasm is a term used in Literature and English Grammar classes. It is derived from the Greek word “pleon” meaning “excessive or abundant.” Pleonasms are the opposites, or antonyms, of oxymora which are contradicting terms used together. Although easily confused and mixed-up with oxymora, pleonasm is redundant phrasing.

Common examples of pleonasms in writing include:

- burning fire
- cash money
- end result
- all together
- invited guests

A pleonasm is also considered to be a tautology. While the word tautology also means “excessive phrasing,” tautologies are found in legal documents. There are two reasons:

1. All legal language contains a mixture of both English phrases as well as French and Latin phrases. The tautologies and pleonasms in legal documents often contain one word derived from the English language and one from the French or Latin language.

2. Often one word is used to define the other word in legal documents. This includes phrases such as:

- null and void
- will and testament
- cease and desist

Pleonasms are also commonly found paired with acronyms. Examples include:

- ATM machine
- HIV virus
- RAM memory

Because ATM stands for Automatic Teller Machine, the phrase “ATM machine,” if said aloud would translate to “Automatic Teller Machine machine.”

Pleonasms may be used in stylistic writings, such as plays or poetry. If used in this manner, they must be approached with caution, as the overuse of them will result in cliched writing. Consider the phrase:

“She wept tears of joy.”

“Wept tears” is the pleonasm. For stylistic purposes, the phrase works, as saying, “She wept.” would be terse and brief.

Using pleonasms in everyday speech makes one appear long-winded. The excessive use of pleonasms in writing pieces makes a paper appear to be full of “fluff” or “filler” content.

See some great examples below:

Please contribute any pleonasms you may come across from the media and let’s make this list even more significant as it expands.

  • ABM missile
  • ABS system
  • absolutely essential
  • absolutely necessary
  • a cappella without music
  • AC current
  • ACT test
  • active weather —From a Canadian contributor.
  • advance forward
  • advance scouting *
  • advance warning
  • affirmative yes
  • affluent rich *
  • aid and abet
  • A known carcinogen suspected of causing cancer
    As seen in a report on WHIO Television following a 1986 train wreck in Ohio. The wreck spilled thousands of gallons of Xylene, a known carcinogen.
  • A.M. in the morning
  • AMOCO Oil Co.
  • an anachronism in his own time *
  • and etc.
  • anonymous stranger
  • APL programing language
  • armed assault and holdup *
  • ascend up
  • ATM machine
  • attach together
  • at this point in time [“At this time” or “At this point” is more than adequate and is preferable!] —From a Canadian contributor.
  • autobiography of my life
  • automatic ATM machine
  • bad evil
  • BASIC code
  • basic fundamentals
  • beautiful vista to look out upon *
  • blood hemorrhage
  • boat marina *
  • both football teams were deadlocked at halftime *
  • breaking and entering
  • buried and suffocated to death *
  • CAD design
  • cash money
  • CAUTION
    WATER ON ROAD
    DURING
    RAINAs seen on a highway sign
  • cease and desist
  • circulated around
  • classic tradition
  • classify into groups
  • climb up
  • close proximity
  • close scrutiny
  • CNN news network
  • co-equal partners *
  • cold frost
  • cold ice
  • collaborate together
  • combined together
  • commuting back and forth
  • completely annihilated
  • completely blind
  • completely deaf
  • completely destroyed
  • completely empty
  • completely expired
  • completely filled
  • completely full
  • completely throughly
  • completely unanimous
  • component parts
  • connect up together
  • conniption fit
  • consecutive extra points in a row *
  • constant nagging
  • continuing on
  • couture fashion
  • current incumbent *
  • dark night
  • DC current
  • dead corpse
  • definite decision
  • descend down
  • diametrically opposed
  • different variation *
  • DMZ zone
  • doctorate degree
  • DOS operating system
  • downward descent
  • dry ice
  • each and every
  • each per capita *
  • eliminate altogether
  • empty hole
  • empty space
  • end result
  • entirely eliminating
  • essential necessity
  • exact replica
  • exact same
  • exactly the same
  • existing condition
  • experiment someone was just trying out *
  • extra added features
  • extreme hazard
  • favorable approval *
  • federal deficit
  • fellow colleague
  • final end
  • final showdown *
  • first conceived *
  • following below
  • forced compulsion
  • foreign imports
  • former graduate (of an educational institution) *
  • former veteran *
  • frank candor *
  • free gift
  • free gratis
  • freezing cold
  • full satisfaction
  • frozen ice
  • frozen tundra
  • general consensus of opinion
  • give and bequeath
  • GMT time
  • good benefit
  • good luck
  • good success *
  • good success *
  • government deficit
  • grand total
  • grateful thanks
  • growing greater
  • half a dozen of one and six of another
  • handwritten manuscript
  • hard rock (as in Hard Rock Cafe?)
  • have and hold
  • hear with one’s own ears
  • HIV virus
  • hot fire
  • hot water heater
  • imminent at any moment *
  • individual person
  • indulgent patience
  • inquisitive busybody
  • intentional planning
  • invited guests
  • irregardless *
  • ISDN network
  • join together
  • joint collaboration
  • joint cooperation
  • killed dead
  • knowledgeable experts
  • last will and testament
  • LCD display
  • LED diode
  • lesbian women or lesbian woman
  • literate-English teachers
  • literate readers
  • little animalcules
  • little baby
  • live witness
  • living legend in his own time *
  • long-chronic illness
  • long litany
  • major breakthrough
  • malignant cancer
  • manually by hand
  • many frequent
  • marital spouse
  • may possibly
  • meandering back and forth and all around *
  • mental thought
  • merge together
  • mesa table
  • missing gaps *
  • mutual cooperation
  • microdot
  • modern colleges of today
  • Mount Fujiyama (Mount Mountain)
  • more easier
  • more than unique–it’s practically one of a kind *
  • mutual confidence *
  • NATO organization
  • near proximity
  • necessary essentials
  • negative misfortune
  • negative no
  • never, ever
  • new discovery *
  • new innovations *
  • new neophyte
  • new recruit
  • nocturnal-night vampires
  • nomenclature terms
  • nonreading illiterates
  • normal, everyday
  • nostalgia for the past *
  • not sufficient enough *
  • null and void
  • obsolete thing of the past *
  • old adage
  • old customs
  • old senior citizens
  • only unique (person, place, or thing)
  • oral conversation *
  • original founder
  • original source
  • over again
  • overdone this a little too much *
  • overused cliche
  • outside in the yard
  • pair of twins *
  • past experience
  • past history
  • past tradition *
  • PC Computer
  • perfectly legitimate
  • persistent obsession
  • personal friend
  • personal friendship
  • personal individual
  • pizza pie
  • plane flying aloft in the air above *
  • play actor
  • please RSVP
  • P.M. in the evening
  • poisonous venoms
  • polar opposites
  • positive yes
  • postponed until later
  • potentially capable *
  • pre planning
  • present incumbent
  • previously listed above
  • PR press releases
  • pruned out
  • quite unique
  • rags and tatters
  • real actual
  • recently new
  • receded back *
  • re-continuation *
  • redundancies, tautologies, and pleonasms
  • redundant redundancies
  • redundant repetitions
  • refer back
  • regular routine
  • religious holiday
  • repeat again
  • repeated redundancies
  • repetitious redundancies
  • resulting effects
  • retreating back
  • return back
  • revert back
  • rice paddy
  • Rio Grande River (Big River River)
  • root cause
  • round circle
  • round wheels
  • ruling junta *
  • safe haven (donated by Frances in Australia)
  • safe sanctuary *
  • safe sanctuary *
  • Sahara desert
  • SCSI Interface
  • see with one’s own eyes
  • seedling plant
  • serious danger
  • sharp point
  • shape and form
  • sin taxes
  • sink down
  • small speck
  • specific examples
  • stellar astronomers
  • string together
  • staged scenario
  • successful achievement
  • sudden impulse
  • suffered poorly *
  • surrounded on all sides *
  • sum total
  • technical jargon
  • temporary reprieve
  • the hoi polloi (hoi means “the”)
  • The La Brea Tar Pits (The The Tar Tar Pits)
  • The Los Altos Hills (The The Hills Hills)
  • tiny speck
  • top priority
  • total destruction
  • totally blind
  • totally deaf
  • totally demolished
  • totally empty
  • totally full
  • totally unnecessary
  • true facts
  • tuna fish
  • 12 o’clock midnight (or 12 midnight)
  • 12 o’clock noon (or 12 noon)
  • two-man tandem *
  • two-person tandem *
  • ultimate goal
  • undergraduate student
  • unexpected emergency
  • unexpected surprise
  • unhealthy sickness
  • university college students
  • unmarried bachelor
  • unmarried old maid
  • unnecessary redundancies *
  • unsolved mystery
  • usual custom
  • useless and unnecessary
  • vacillating back and forth *
  • visible with your own eyes *
  • wall mural
  • watching and observing
  • water hydrant
  • wet water
  • widow woman
  • widow of the late (Whoever) *
  • widower man
  • will and testament
  • with au jus
  • wordy and verbose
  • world-wide-pandemic disease (heard on CNN from “health expert”)
  • youthful teenagers

* The pleonasms followed by an asterisk (*) came from an essay, “The Affluent Rich” by Nat Boynton in his book,Media Rare.

Now, as with the oxymora, we include pleonasms in sentences; some of them are from the mouths of famous celebrities.

  • It’s deja vu all over again. -attributed to Yogi Berra
  • “Smoking can kill you, and if you’ve been killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.” -attributed to Brooke Shields
  • Lead-lined coffins called a health risk.
  • Census says rich have most of the money. (news item)
  • Cliches are a dime a dozen–avoid them like the plague.
  • Cure suggestibility with hypnosis.
  • I’ve told you a million times, “Don’t exaggerate!”
  • Is that a mirage or am I seeing things?
  • It’s bad luck to be superstitious.
  • I used to be an agnostic, but now I’m not so sure.
  • Sometimes you can observe a lot just by watching. -attributed to Yogi Berra
  • Half the lies our opponents tell about us are not true.
  • Football is an incredible game. Sometimes it’s so incredible, it’s unbelievable. -Tom Landry
  • When large numbers of men are unable to find work, unemployment results. -Calvin Coolidge
  • Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined. -Samuel Goldwyn
  • I never make predictions, especially about the future. -Attributed to Samuel Goldwyn
  • “In the city today, the temperature rose to 105 degrees. This sudden rise of temperature was responsible for the intolerable heat.”
  • “Trapped, like a trap in a trap.” -Dorothy Parker
  • I used to be indecisive, now I’m not sure.
  • He lived his life to the end.
  • Some people are superficial but that’s just on the surface.
  • The world is apathetic but I don’t care.
  • Always avoid alliteration.
  • Treachery will often bring loyalty into question.
  • Perspective is in the eye of the beholder.
  • “If we do not succeed, we run the risk of failure.” -attributed to former Vice-President Dan Quayle
  • “Seen somewhere in the U.S. — “Fish and chips with French fries.”