Paralepsis (Rhetoric)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Full color painting depicting the death of Julius Caesar.
The Death of Julius Caesar.

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Paralepsis (also spelled paralipsis) is the rhetorical strategy (and logical fallacy) of emphasizing a point by seeming to pass over it. Adjective: paraleptic or paraliptic. Similar to apophasis and praeteritio.

In The English Academy (1677), John Newton defined paralepsis as "a kind of irony, by which we seem to pass by, or take no notice of such things which yet we strictly observe and remember."


From the Greek para- "beside" + leipein "to leave"

Pronunciation: pa-ra-LEP-sis


  • "Let's pass swiftly over the vicar's predilection for cream cakes. Let's not dwell on his fetish for Dolly Mixture. Let's not even mention his rapidly increasing girth. No, no—let us instead turn directly to his recent work on self-control and abstinence."
    (Tom Coates,, Apr. 5, 2003)
  • "The music, the service at the feast,
    The noble gifts for the great and small,
    The rich adornment of Theseus's palace . . .
    All these things I do not mention now."
    (Chaucer, "The Knight's Tale," The Canterbury Tales)
  • "We get [in Oprah by Kitty Kelley] the obligatory discussion of whether or not Oprah and Gayle King, her best friend of thirty-four years, are lesbians. 'There was no foundation for the rumors of a lesbian relationship, except for their constant togetherness and Oprah's bizarre teasing of the subject,' Kelley writes, and then, like a conspiracy theorist squinting to see the pyramids on dollar bills, trots out unconvincing insinuations."
    (Lauren Collins, "Celebrity Smackdown." The New Yorker, April 19, 2010)

Mark Antony's Paralepsis

"But here's a parchment, with the seal of Caesar;
I found it in his closet; 'tis his will:
Let but the commons hear this testament—
Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read . . ..
"Have patience, gentle friends, I must not read it.
It is not meet you know how Caesar lov'd you.
You are not wood, you are not stones, but men;
And, being men, hearing the will of Caesar,
It will inflame you, it will make you mad:
'Tis good you know not that you are his heirs;
For if you should, oh, what would come of it!"
(Mark Antony in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act III, scene two)

A Form of Irony

"Paralipsis: a form of irony in which one gets one's message across by suggesting the outlines of the message that one is struggling to suppress. We are not going to say that paralipsis is . . . the habitual refuge of the courtroom mechanic, who abuses it in order to suggest to the jury what he can very well deny to the judge ever having said."
(L. Bridges and W. Rickenbacker, The Art of Persuasion, 1991)

The Paraleptic Strike-Through

"The so-called 'strike through' mode of type has come into its own as a standard device in opinion journalism--even in print. . . .
"As New York Times blogger Noam Cohen commented a while back, '[I]n Internet culture, the strike-through has already taken on an ironic function, as a ham-fisted way of having it both ways in type a witty way of simultaneously commenting on your prose as you create it.' And when this device appears in print, it's being used exclusively for this kind of ironic effect. . . .
"The paradox is that crossing something out highlights it. The ancient Greek rhetoricians had a whole vocabulary of terms to refer to different forms of 'mentioning by not mentioning.'"
(Ruth Walker, "Highlight Your Errors: The Paradox of the 'Strike Through' Mode." The Christian Science Monitor, July 9, 2010)

Political Paralepsis

"Obama characterized Clinton's remarks as 'tired Washington politicians and the games they play.'
"'She made an unfortunate remark about Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson,' he said. 'I haven't remarked on it. And she offended some folks who thought she diminished the role about King and the civil rights movement. The notion that this is our doing is ludicrous.'
"Obama went on to criticize Clinton's interview, saying that she spent an hour focused on attacking him rather than 'telling people about her positive vision for America.'"
(Domenico Montanaro, "Obama: Clinton MLK Comments 'Ludicrous,'" NBC First Read, Jan. 13, 2008)

Paralepsis (or Omission), 1823

"Paralepsis, or Omission, is a figure by which the orator pretends to conceal or pass by what he really means to declare and strongly to enforce.
"Whatever we seem to give up, as a matter of small consequence, we generally pronounce in a higher and softer tone of voice than the rest: this is accompanied with an air of indifference that seems to make light of what we mention, and this indifference generally leads us to end the particulars with the suspension of voice, properly called the rising inflection. Thus Cicero, in his defense of Sextius, introduces his character in the following manner, with a design of recommending him to the favour of the judges:

I might say many things of his liberality, kindness to his domestics, his command in the army, and moderation during his office in the province; but the honour of the state presents itself to my view, and calling me to it, advises me to omit these lesser matters.

The first part of this sentence should be spoken in a soft high tone of voice, with an air of indifference, as if waving the advantages arising from his client's character; but the latter part assumes a lower and firmer tone, which greatly enforces and sets off the former."
(John Walker, A Rhetorical Grammar, 1823)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Paralepsis (Rhetoric)." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). Paralepsis (Rhetoric). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Paralepsis (Rhetoric)." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).