Apostrophe - Explore the Figure of Speech, Its Meaning, Definition, Uses and Examples

‘Apostrophe’ – You sure would have heard of this term. Do you know what it is? A punctuation mark? Yes, it is, but there is also a figure of speech called apostrophe. Want to know what it is? Check out the topics discussed in the article to learn the meaning, definition, how it is used in context, along with examples to have a clear idea of how it can be used.

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Apostrophe – A Figure of Speech

Apostrophe is a figure of speech that is used to address someone who is absent or already dead. It can also be used to address an abstract quality or idea, and even a non-living object.

Definition of Apostrophe

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, apostrophe is defined as “a rhetorical figure in which the speaker addresses a dead or absent person, or an abstraction or inanimate object”. The literary device ‘apostrophe’, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as “the addressing of a usually absent person or a usually personified thing rhetorically”.

Examples of the Use of Apostrophe as a Figure of Speech

Given below are examples of apostrophe from literature and movies for your reference.

Examples of Apostrophe from Literature

Let us take a close look at a few examples of apostrophe from literature to understand how the rhetorical device can be employed.

Example 1:

“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

The above sentence is a line from the soliloquy delivered by Juliet. In the scene, she is found standing on the balcony and thinking about Romeo, who is not there with her at that moment.

Example 2:

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;”

The above lines are from the sonnet, ‘Death, be not proud’ by John Donne. He addresses death, an abstract idea, in the sonnet.

Example 3:

“O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,”

The poet, Walt Whitman’s poem, ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ is an elegy written to remember and honour the death of U. S. President Abraham Lincoln. It is also a perfect example of the use of apostrophe.

Example 4:

“O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.”

The above line is from the play, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare. Juliet is seen speaking to the dagger.

Example 5:

“Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!

No hungry generations tread thee down;”

The above line from ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ by John Keats is a recalling of an experience he had. It speaks about the song of the nightingale he had heard. This is an example of apostrophe as the bird is absent when it is being addressed.

Examples of Apostrophe from Movies, TV Shows and Nursery Rhymes

Now, have a look at the following examples of the use of apostrophe in nursery rhymes, dialogues from movies and TV shows. .

Example 1:

“I’m sorry, Wilson. Wilson, I’m sorry!”

“Don’t worry Wilson, I’ll do all the padding. You just hold on.”

The above lines are from the movie, ‘Cast Away’. These lines are spoken by the actor Tom Hanks to his volleyball, which, according to him, is an imaginary friend whom he has named Wilson. Since he is speaking to the volleyball, an inanimate object, these lines can be considered an example of apostrophe.

Example 2:

The famous nursery rhyme, ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’, probably the first one all of us have learnt, is a perfect example of apostrophe.

“Twinkle, twinkle little star

How I wonder what you are”

Example 3:
  • Chandler is found speaking to a door in one of the scenes in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (a TV show).

“I’m funny, right? What do you know? You’re a door.”

  • In another scene, he is also found talking to his slippers.

“So, what do you say, boys? Should I call him?

  • There is also another instance where Joey and Chandler, characters in the same show, speak to the foosball table to bid farewell before they break it open to save their chick and duck.

Joey: “Table, you have given us so many great times and you guys – Jordan, Victor, Joel, all you guys, what can I say! You guys make us look good.”

In these lines, the names – Jordan, Victor and Joel are names Joey has given the players in the foosball table, all of which are non-living objects.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Use of Apostrophe as a Figure of Speech

What is the meaning of the figure of speech called apostrophe?

Apostrophe is a figure of speech that is used to address someone who is absent or already dead. It can also be used to address an abstract quality or idea and even a non-living object.

What is the definition of apostrophe?

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, apostrophe is defined as “a rhetorical figure in which the speaker addresses a dead or absent person, or an abstraction or inanimate object”. The literary device ‘apostrophe’, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as “the addressing of a usually absent person or a usually personified thing rhetorically”.

Give some examples of apostrophe used as a figure of speech.

Here are a few examples of apostrophe used as a figure of speech.

  • “O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.”
  • “Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
  • No hungry generations tread thee down;”

  • “O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
  • The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,”

  • “Table, you have given us so many great times and you guys – Jordan, Victor, Joel, all you guys, what can I say! You guys make us look good.”
  • “Twinkle, twinkle little star
  • How I wonder what you are”

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