Trope Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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Have you ever heard of the word trope? Maybe you’ve heard it in conversations or articles about popular media or literature. It’s a handy word when it comes to talking about art and the themes it contains. 

If you study any form of art, or even if you just enjoy it casually, you need to know the word trope. It will help you to better understand your craft and have more informed discussions about it. 

So, our word of the day is trope. By the end of this simple guide to the word trope, you’ll have a solid understanding of what it means, its history, and how it’s used in English and media. 

What Is the Definition of the Word Trope?

The word trope, pronounced trəʊp, has a relatively simple meaning, but its applications are quite vast. And its definition goes a lot deeper than just the surface level. Here’s a quick definition of the word trope. 

  • An idea, character archetype, form, or image that is used often in a particular genre of art or a specific artist’s works
  • A common figure of speech or phrase that has the use of a word that is outside of its normal definition or literal meaning

For the first definition, a trope is an idea that is commonly used in a particular type of art. Tropes are general ideas that specific artists deliver their own take on. Tropes differ in their expression based on the artist, but the core idea or subject matter is commonly used throughout. 

Alien invasions are a common trope in science fiction. The girl boss who is too busy for love is a common trope in romantic comedies. Talking animals are a common trope in children’s literature. The list goes on and on. 

Tropes can even be a recurring theme, such as good vs. evil or man vs. self. A trope can be an important plot device that allows a writer to create an engaging and meaningful story. 

As for the second definition, a trope is simply a commonly used phrase that uses words differently than how they were intended to be used. It’s a rhetorical device or literary device, similar to hyperbole or simile, that uses figurative language to compare one thing with another. 

Some common tropes in this sense include calling a sneaky person a fox or calling a woman’s eyes a sea of blue. There are many types of tropes, including euphemisms, irony, hyperbole, litotes, metaphors, metonymy, personification, interpolation, and synecdoches. The use of tropes is common throughout literature and media.

The Importance of Tropes 

Tropes do a lot for our understanding of art and our ability to create it. And they do so in a variety of different ways. 

For starters, tropes give a great subject matter for artists to pull from. Artists can utilize a trope to relay a certain message to their audience. By using a trope that people are familiar with, an artist can easily and clearly convey a point. 

In addition, because there are so many common tropes that are understood by nearly everybody, tropes can be subverted to break an audience’s expectations. Creators can present the idea of a trope but then change it slightly to provide an exciting, funny, or engaging twist. 

Not to mention, the presence of the word trope in the English language gives us tools to discuss art in more effective ways and articulate the ideas present. By being able to call a trope what it is, we can have intelligent, informative conversations about a piece of art and what it means. 

In all of these ways, the word trope is an incredibly important word in the world of art, so it is an incredibly important word and concept for the artist to understand and utilize in their works. 

What’s the Etymology of the Word Trope?

Taking a look at the history of a word, also called its etymology, is a great way to help us understand what the word means and how to use it in our lives. So let’s take a look at the etymology of the word trope. 

The word trope gets its ancient origins from the Proto-Indo-European root trep-, which means “to turn.” We first see this root word in action in the Greek word trepein which has the same definition: “to turn.” 

There is also the Greek word trope, which is a noun that means “a turning” and the Greek tropos, meaning “a direction, a turn, or a way.” Derived from this word is the Latin tropus, which means “a figure of speech.” 

In about the 16th century, the Latin word began to find its way into the English language. 

What Are Some Example Sentences for the Word Trope?

Here are some examples of the word trope being used in a sentence. 

The trope you see in horror movies of a scared woman going inside the dark building to investigate is so overdone, and I’m sick of it. 

If I see another movie with the trope of a bright-eyed girl coming to New York for the first time, I’m gonna lose it. 

I just love that classic trope of a maiden needing rescue from a tall tower. 

I think Harry Potter is one of the most unique versions of the whole “wizards in witches hiding from the public” trope. 

Shakespeare was a master of tropes, using literary devices to draw beautiful imagery with his incredible, poetic words. 

What Are the Synonyms of the Word Trope?

Here are some synonyms of the word trope that might come up in a thesaurus. 

  • Image 
  • Symbol
  • Figure
  • Idea
  • Notion
  • Analogy
  • Symbol

What Are Its Antonyms?

Here are a few antonyms for the word trope.

  • Plain speech
  • Concrete
  •  Entity

The Word Trope

Now you know everything you need to know about the definition of trope, the history of the word, and its importance in art. Use this word when you write or when you’re in a conversation about your favorite TV show or movie. 

And if you need a refresher on what trope means or how to use it, just come back to this article for the info you need. 


What is a Trope? Definition, Examples of Tropes in Literature | Writing Explained 

TROPE | Cambridge English Dictionary 

TROPE | Meaning & Definition for UK English | Lexico