Tautology | Definition and Meaning – Learn with Examples
A tautology is defined as a rhetorical strategy where the same idea is repeated in different words. A tautology is when you say the same thing twice using different words, which is unnecessary and can make your statement less clear
The purpose of a tautology is to emphasize a point or to create a sense of reinforcement, but it can also come across as unnecessary and redundant. The example, “a free gift,” is a classic instance of a tautological expression since a gift is inherently something given without payment, so the word “free” is redundant in this context. Tautologies are generally discouraged in effective communication, as they can weaken the impact of the message and make the language less precise.
Examples of Tautological Statements:
Here are five examples of tautologies:
- Exact same: Saying something is the “exact same” means it’s identical. The word “exact” is unnecessary.
- Basic fundamentals: Referring to something as the “basic fundamentals” is redundant since fundamentals are already basic principles or foundations.
- Close proximity: Describing something as being in “close proximity” means it’s nearby. “Proximity” itself means closeness, so the word “close” is redundant.
- End result: Talking about the “end result” means discussing the final outcome. The word “end” already implies a result, making “result” redundant.
- Final conclusion: Mentioning the “final conclusion” means discussing the ultimate ending point. The word “final” already indicates the conclusion, so “conclusion” is unnecessary.
Both tautology and pleonasm involve the use of unnecessary words, but they have subtle differences in their meanings:
Tautology is Repetition of meaning:
A tautology specifically refers to the unnecessary repetition of meaning using different words. It’s a form of redundancy where the same idea is expressed multiple times, making the statement verbose without adding any extra meaning. For example, saying “future plans” is a tautology because plans are always about the future.
Pleonasm is use of Excess Words:
Pleonasm, on the other hand, is the use of more words than necessary to convey meaning. It’s a broader term that encompasses various types of redundancy, not limited to expressing the same idea in different words. Pleonasm can include using redundant adjectives, adverbs, or other unnecessary qualifiers. For instance, saying “she climbed up” is pleonastic because “up” is unnecessary since climbing inherently implies moving upward.
In summary, while tautology is a specific type of pleonasm involving the repetition of the same idea in different words, pleonasm can include any kind of redundant or unnecessary use of words in a sentence.
Types of Tautology:
There are two basic types of Tautology:
A rhetorical tautology involves needless repetition in expressing an idea. It occurs when extra words are used to convey a meaning already implied. For instance, saying “a new innovation” is a tautology because “innovations” are inherently “new.” Although often seen as bad style due to redundancy, they can emphasize specific aspects of an idea. This makes them common in political speeches and advertising slogans.
Examples of Rhetorical Tautologies:
- Call to receive your free gift.
- Have you made any future plans?
- The police apprehended the armed gunman.
A logical tautology is a statement always true, leaving no logical possibility unconsidered. These statements, often “either/or” in nature, don’t convey meaningful claims about the world. Sometimes, they involve circular reasoning, repeating the premise to support itself (e.g., “blue is blue”). While logically redundant, they are used to express inevitability in non-literal contexts.
Examples of Logical Tautologies:
- It is or it isn’t.
- You’re coming or you’re not.
- The book is popular because people like it.
Examples of Non-Literal Logical Tautologies:
Boys will be boys. [typical mischievous behavior of boys]
It is what it is. [accepting an unchangeable situation]
Should Tautologies be Avoided while communicating?
Using tautologies is generally considered a stylistic flaw and should be avoided in formal contexts such as academic writing. Tautologies often creep in when a word conveying a similar idea is redundantly included in a sentence. In such cases, removing the extra word can enhance the clarity and precision of your writing especially for cyberbullying essay.
Examples: Fixing Tautologous Statements:
I’m arriving at 6 a.m. in the morning. [a.m. means “in the morning”]
Better: I’m arriving at 6 a.m.
Better: I’m arriving at 6 in the morning.
Aaron made an unintentional mistake. [mistakes are always unintentional]
Better: Aaron made a mistake۔
You can use the ATM machine over there. [ATM stands for “automated teller machine”]
Better: You can use the ATM over there.
However, it’s worth noting that tautologies are sometimes purposefully used in literature, political speeches, advertising, and everyday conversation to emphasize a point or convey certainty. For instance, the phrase “I saw it with my own eyes,” although tautological (one cannot see with someone else’s eyes), is commonly used to stress the truth of a statement, especially when something seems hard to believe.