Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Asterismos is a rhetorical term for an introductory word or phrase (such as "behold") that has the primary function of calling attention to what follows.

Asterismos is generally regarded as a type of pleonasm

From the Greek, "marking with stars"

Examples and Observations

  • "Gotham, take control of your city. Behold, the instrument of your liberation!"
    (Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, 2012)
  • "Behold, Nagini, our work is done."
    (Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, 2011)
  • "Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity,
    When I give I give myself."
    (Walt Whitman, Song of Myself)
  • "Hey, I've read all about your accident. That much gamma exposure should have killed you."
    (Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in The Avengers, 2012)
  • "Hey, this is not First Class."
    (King Julien XIII in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, 2012)
  • "We should talk more tomorrow. Listen, I don't take chances anymore."
    (Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, "First Time Again." The Walking Dead, 2015)
  • "Now listen people, we are experiencing some kind of disaster."
    (Andre Braugher as Brent Norton in The Mist, 2007)
  • "And Jesus said to his disciples, 'Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"
    (Matthew 19:23-24, The Bible: Revised Standard Version)
  • "Well, looky here, boss, dey's sumfn wrong, dey is. Is I me, or who is I? Is I heah, or whah is I? Now dat's what I wants to know."
    (Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain)
  • The Emphatic Figure
    "Asterismos [is the] addition of a logically unnecessary word at the beginning of a phrase, or a phrase at the beginning of a sentence, to emphasize what follows. Pascal states, 'All human evil comes from this, man's being unable to sit still in a room.' The pronoun this interrupts the flow of thought and draws attention to what follows. Beaumarchais is using that as an asterismos in 'Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons, Madam: That is all there is to distinguish us from other Animals.' In the Bible the most frequent asterismos is behold: 'Behold, the Lord God said . . .." In contemporary sports interviews, hey is frequently used as an asterismos."
    (Arthur Quinn and Lyon Rathbun, "Asterismos." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age, ed. by Theresa Enos. Taylor & Francis, 1996)

Pronunciation: as-ter-IS-mos

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Asterismos." ThoughtCo, Jul. 23, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, July 23). Asterismos. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Asterismos." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 24, 2023).