\ ˈtrōp How to pronounce trope (audio) \

Definition of trope

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech
b : a common or overused theme or device : cliché the usual horror movie tropes
2 : a phrase or verse added as an embellishment or interpolation to the sung parts of the Mass in the Middle Ages

Definition of -trope (Entry 2 of 2)

: body characterized by (such) a state allotrope

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Examples of trope in a Sentence

Noun a screenplay that reads like a catalog of mystery-thriller tropes
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Imagine how devastating it would have been had the stonework itself been defaced and left in ruins — a universal, visual trope for civilization’s collapse. Washington Post, "Hiking along Virginia’s Aquia Creek and finding history a stone’s throw from home," 2 Apr. 2021 Line of Duty exceeds beyond the overused good-cop, bad-cop trope, instead operating within a far more complex dynamic. Olivia-anne Cleary, Vulture, "Flex Your Inner Sleuth With British Crime Drama Line of Duty," 23 Mar. 2021 Like Peters’s invocation of detransition, this description takes a risky trope—the use of transition as a metaphor for some more broadly relatable experience—and injects it with specificity. Crispin Long, The New Yorker, "The Insider Insights of “Detransition, Baby”," 31 Jan. 2021 By applying the common anti-capitalist trope, that greed drives companies, to what has been an act of national collaboration, pride, and selflessness on behalf of many, Boris shoots the capitalist cause in the foot. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "Leverage, Leverage, Leverage," 31 Mar. 2021 Falsehoods about busloads and planeloads of antifa activists traveling the nation to sow violence became a common trope on right-wing internet sites, even prompting some Americans to ask local law enforcement for help. New York Times, "How Pro-Trump Forces Pushed a Lie About Antifa at the Capitol Riot," 1 Mar. 2021 Standup comedians push such buttons all the time, but the trope is beyond rare in serious museums. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "Sorrows of Black America," 22 Feb. 2021 No longer only a sci-fi trope, automation has turned mainstream. Serenity Gibbons, Forbes, "3 Trends In Workflow Automation To Keep Up With," 18 Mar. 2021 In 2017, an ad for Dove body wash showed a Black woman removing her shirt to reveal a White woman in the next frame — which seemed to emanate a racist trope from historical soap ads., "Kia tells owners of recalled cars to park them outside until repairs are made," 10 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'trope.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of trope


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for trope


borrowed from Latin tropus "figure of speech" (Medieval Latin, "embellishment to the sung parts of the Mass"), borrowed from Greek trópos "turn, way, manner, style, figurative expression," noun derivative from the base of trépein "to turn," probably going back to Indo-European *trep-, whence also Sanskrit trapate "(s/he) is ashamed, becomes perplexed," Hittite te-ri-ip-zi "(s/he) ploughs"

Note: Also compared is Latin trepit, glossed as vertit "(s/he) turns," but as this form is only attested in the lexicon of the grammarian Sextus Pompeius Festus, it may be a reconstruction based on the Greek word. The word tropes (genitive case) in the Old English translation of Bede's Ecclesiastical History is an isolated instance; the word was reborrowed from Latin or Greek in the 16th century.

Noun combining form

borrowed from Greek -tropos "turned, directed, living (in the manner indicated)," adjective derivative of trópos "turn, way, manner, style" — more at trope

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Learn More about trope

Time Traveler for trope

Time Traveler

The first known use of trope was before the 12th century

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Statistics for trope

Last Updated

25 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Trope.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for trope



English Language Learners Definition of trope

technical : a word, phrase, or image used in a new and different way in order to create an artistic effect

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