1. A figure of speech using words in nonliteral ways, such as a metaphor.
2. A word or phrase interpolated as an embellishment in the sung parts of certain medieval liturgies.
a. A theme, motif, plot, or literary device that commonly recurs within a genre or work of fiction, especially when considered clichéd: “Finding the corrosion under the waxed-and-polished chassis of small-town America is itself an old trope” (James Poniewozik).
b. An often recurring idea or image: “In our conversations, there was a running theme, a trope, of economic havoc, of drowned cities, of time running out” (Jon Gertner).
[Latin tropus, from Greek tropos, turn, figure of speech; see trep- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
tropi·cal (trōpĭ-kəl) adj.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.