synathroesmus (rhetoric)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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Synathroesmus is a rhetorical term for the piling up of words (usually adjectives), often in the spirit of invective. Also known as congeries, accumulatio, and seriation.

In A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (2012), Cuddon and Habib offer this example of synathroesmus from Shakespeare's Macbeth:
Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,
Loyal and neutral, in a moment?

See the additional examples below. Also see:

From the Greek, "collection"


  • "He's a proud, haughty, consequential, turned-up-nose peacock."
    (Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby)
  • "He was a gasping, wheezing, clutching, covetous old man."
    (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)
  • "Of all the bete, clumsy, blundering, boggling, baboon-blooded stuff I ever saw on the human stage, that thing last night beat--as far as the story and acting went--and of all the affected, sapless, soulless, beginningless, endless, topless, bottomless, topsyturviest, tuneless, scrannelpipiest--tongs and boniest--doggerel of sounds I ever endured the deadliness of, that eternity of nothing was the deadliest, as far as its sound went."
    (John Ruskin, on Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg)
  • "One viewed the existence of man then as a marvel, and conceded a glamour of wonder to these lice which were caused to cling to a whirling, fire-smote, ice-locked, disease-stricken, space-lost bulb."
    (Stephen Crane, "The Blue Hotel")
  • "Lipsmackin' thirstquenchin' acetastin' motivatin' goodbuzzin' cooltalkin' highwalkin' fastlivin' evergivin' coolfizzin' Pepsi."
    (commercial slogan for Pepsi Cola)
  • "[Jimmy Carter] was of the Missionary lectern-pounding Amen ten-finger C-major-chord Sister-Martha-at-the-Yamaha-keyboard loblolly piney-woods Baptist faith . . .."
    (Tom Wolfe, "The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening," 1977)
  • "Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show"
    (Geoffrey Nunberg, book title, 2006)
  • Thomas Pynchon's Use of Synathroesmus
    "Yet at least he had believed in the cars, maybe to excess: how could he not, seeing people poorer than him come in, Negro, Mexican, cracker, a parade seven days a week, bring with them the most godawful of trade-ins: motorized, metal extensions of themselves, of their families and what their whole lives must be like, out there so naked for anybody, a stranger like himself, to look at, frame cockeyed, rusty underneath, fender repainted in a shade just off enough to depress the value, if not Mucho himself, inside smelling hopeless of children, of supermarket booze, or two, sometimes three generations of cigarette smokers, or only of dust--and when the cars were swept out you had to look at the actual residue of these lives, and there was no way of telling what things had been truly refused (when so little he supposed came by that out of fear most of it had to be taken and kept) and what had simply (perhaps tragically) been lost: clipped coupons promising savings of 5 or 10¢, trading stamps, pink flyers advertising specials at the market, butts, tooth-shy combs, help-wanted ads, Yellow Pages torn from the phone book, rags of old underwear or dresses that already were period costumes, for wiping your own breath off the inside of a windshield with so you could see whatever it was, a movie, a woman or car you coveted, a cop who might pull you over just for drill, all the bits and pieces coated uniformly, like a salad of despair, in a grey dressing of ash, condensed exhaust, dust, body wastes--it nauseated him to look, but he had to look."
    (Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49, 1965)

Pronunciation: si na TREES mus or sin a THROE smus

Alternate Spellings: sinathroesmus