- any literary or rhetorical device, as metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony, that consists in the use of words in other than their literal sense.
- an instance of this.Compare figure of speech.
- a recurring theme or motif, as in literature or art:the trope of motherhood;the heroic trope.
- a convention or device that establishes a predictable or stereotypical representation of a character, setting, or scenario in a creative work:From her introduction in the movie, the character is nothing but a Damsel in Distress trope.The author relies on our knowledge of the Haunted House trope to set the scene.
Origin of trope
Words nearby trope
Other definitions for trope (2 of 2)
MORE ABOUT TROPE
What is a trope?
A trope is a recurring element or a frequently used plot device in a work of literature or art.
A trope can be a person, place, thing, or situation. While you might not have known the definition of trope, you likely have plenty of experience with them if you enjoy literature or art.
The chosen one is a very common trope used in fantasy and science fiction stories, for example. The chosen one is a character (usually the protagonist) who is the only person in the universe who can save the day or foil the villain’s evil scheme, such as Harry Potter in J. K. Rowling’s series.
Another popular trope is a MacGuffin, an object that a plot focuses on. The hero and villain might fight over it or the hero might have to find it in the hero’s quest (another trope!). The MacGuffin serves no other purpose, so details about it don’t matter. In the Indiana Jones movies, Indiana is always chasing a lost treasure that the villains also want. Because the treasure isn’t important other than because the hero and villain both want it, it’s a MacGuffin.
Why is trope important?
The first records of the term trope come from around 1525. It ultimately comes from the Greek trópos, meaning “turn, manner, style, figure of speech.” In rhetoric, a trope is another term for a figure of speech. The use of trope to mean a “recurring theme” is a more modern usage.
One reason tropes are repeatedly used is that people are familiar with them, making it easier for a creator to tell a story. A writer doesn’t need to spend pages telling us why the villain wants to take over the world. We already know from reading other stories that this is what typically happens, so we can move on to the rest of the story. As well, we won’t question why supervillains repeatedly escape from prison without all of the police being fired for incompetence—because the escape is necessary for the story.
You can spot tropes that are unique to a specific genre. For example, in horror movies, no one seems to question when a main character foolishly wanders off alone for no reason. They need to be set apart for the plot to move forward. That’s a trope.
Did you know … ?
Sometimes, a trope can be overused. When it is, it becomes a cliché, a trope that bores or frustrates the audience because they’ve seen it so much. In soap operas, the trope of an evil twin sibling that causes problems for the good twin has become so common that audiences consider it to be a boring cliché.
What are real-life examples of trope?
People have gotten good at recognizing tropes and will often discuss which are their most and least favorite.
Perhaps my all-time favorite trope is "antagonist begrudgingly switches sides to defeat an even greater evil."
— Lindsay King-Miller (@AskAQueerChick) October 2, 2020
"Fast sharks" is going to overtake "Fast zombies" as the most hated trope in movies.
— bring on the dancing horses (@inthefade) July 12, 2013
everytime i go and try and be cute it’s like that trope in looney tunes where somebody step on a rake and it hit them in the face
— Beau Degás (@yunghermoso) September 23, 2020
True or False?
A trope is a character type or plot device that appears repeatedly in works of literature or art.
How to use trope in a sentence
For San Diego to move in an exciting new direction, we need bold leadership to stand up and call out fear-mongering instead of giving in to tired tropes about the people “coming for your neighborhood.”Opponents of Measure E (and More Housing) Want You to Be Very, Very Afraid|Marissa Tucker-Borquez|October 9, 2020|Voice of San Diego
The trope is so common among actual travelers that the double-decker creation accounts for a significant proportion of hotels’ room service sales.Long Live the Room-Service Club Sandwich|Rafael Tonon|October 9, 2020|Eater
By using straightforward language accented with in-person dialogue, Johnson is demonstrating that no restaurant “has” to lean on tired tropes to express flavor.Why Do Fast-Casual Restaurants Get a Pass on Appropriation?|Jenny Dorsey|October 5, 2020|Eater
I grew up in the late 1980s and 90s, when the trope of the diabolical home invader was in full force.‘All About Eve’ at 70|Tom Joudrey|September 25, 2020|Washington Blade
As Lili Loofbourow wrote for the Week in 2017, part of the reason Selin has problems with cultural tropes — with the semiotics of cosmopolitan American college students — is that she’s bicultural.The true love story in Elif Batuman’s The Idiot is a love affair with language|Constance Grady|September 11, 2020|Vox
As such, they emphatically demonstrate the accuracy of the “no risk to public” trope.The Sky Is Not Falling, and Ebola Is Not Out of Control|Kent Sepkowitz|October 17, 2014|DAILY BEAST
It is a common trope in pop culture, be it movies or TV, that straight men loooove girl-on-girl action.A New Huck on the Hardcore LGBT Hudson|William O’Connor|June 11, 2014|DAILY BEAST
To what extent she is trapped in an eternal royal trope or willing participant is only something she knows.
And a stock trope, the “bed trick,” that many of the nerds watching probably knew dates back to the legend of King Arthur.Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds|Arthur Chu|May 27, 2014|DAILY BEAST
How contrived that Modern Family would end its season finale with the tried-and-true sitcom trope: a wedding.Modern Family’s Big, Gay (and Important) Wedding|Kevin Fallon|May 22, 2014|DAILY BEAST
It's a hard word, but I've sure-ly heard her say he-li-o-trope sach-et.Pages for Laughing Eyes|Unknown
Thus the rhetorical trope which is called surprise, is similar to that of music termed the declining of a cadence.Novum Organum|Francis Bacon
Thus, in trying to account for her to himself, did the honest Lackaday flounder from trope to metaphor.The Mountebank|William J. Locke
Allegoria, the seconde parte of Trope is an inuersion of wordes, where it is one in wordes, and another in sentence or meanynge.A Treatise of Schemes and Tropes|Richard Sherry
Though we could well have spared that Kembleian dying trope, his rising up and falling again.The Mirror of Taste, and Dramatic Censor|Samuel James Arnold