Metaphors and similes are figures of speech used to add flair and/or humor to a phrase. These popular rhetorical devices are all well and good, but sometimes you just need to get to the point; enter hypocatastasis.

Hypo is derived from the Greek “under,” cata comes from the Ancient Greek kata, meaning “down from, or down to,’ and stasis is Greek for “standing still.”

Linguistically, both a hypocatastasis and a metaphor imply a resemblance, representation or comparison. However, hypocatastasis packs more of a punch than a metaphor because the former uses only one noun, (the other noun is implied), while the latter uses two nouns. For example, “You are a rockstar!” is a metaphorical phrase because two nouns are present – “you” and “rockstar.” If you simply said “rockstar!” – the “you,” or object, is implied, therefore creating a hypocatastasis.

Hypocatastasis is common in the Bible. For example, when Satan is simply referred to as a “serpent;” the serpent/Satan comparison is implied, thus a hypocatastasis.

Help us think of other examples of this useful and infrequent figure of speech, both in classic literature and popular culture. Let us know, below.

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  1. wave walker -  October 22, 2011 - 12:25 pm

    Another word that might be used interchangeably with Hypocatastasis is “epithet.” An epithet is a word that’s used to describe somebody/something in a way that alludes to a characteristic of nature (used normally in conjunction witha proper noun). As well, it’s intended to convey something other than that which is apparent about the person/place/thing/idea.

    e.g., Ancient of Days

    This term (epithet) is applied to Jesus Christ, intending to exemplify the fact that he had no beginning, that he’s always been the overseer of all that has transpired within humanity and the creation.

    see also “epithet.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 22 Oct. 2011. .

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