What is tautological error

Tautology, Hendiadyoin and Pleonasm

Tautology, Hendiadyoin or Pleonasm?

While tautologies are part of the stylistic means of repetition in rhetoric, a pleonasm is a “double pug”. All three terms come from the Greek (tautology is broken down into: to autó = the same, logos = speaking, speech; Hendiadyoin can be divided into: hen dia dyoin = one by two; pleonasmós = exaggeration, superfluous enlargement).

Even in professional editorial offices, they are mistakenly used synonymously.

Better not!

Embarrassing pleonasms are duplicated verbs such as: “to” impose, “a” to suggest or to participate “with”. They are correct and simple: “impose”, “suggest” and “participate”.

Some people automatically think of “little dwarfs” as an unsightly pleonasm. However, when you are in the hardware store, there are gnomes of all sizes. There are very small ones for the windowsill or the flower box and even almost child-sized ones as door guards for the entrance.

A common mistake

The “white mold” do not necessarily have to be a pleonasm either. Many horses are not white from birth, but they only change color over the years due to the gray gene and until then they offer many variants. From the Holstein apple mold to the Lipizzaner, the Camargue horse or the fly mold, there are numerous types of mold.

Two words become one

In songs, literary texts and speeches, “synonymous words of the same kind” are skillfully used to deliberately duplicate content. This tautological use “Fully” or “all people are people” is considered a successful stylistic device. The demarcation to the Hendiadyoin is tricky. “Fire and Flame”, for example, is only apparently a tautology. Here, however, the two individual words cannot stand on their own, but only together do they mean “passionate” or “with all my heart”. A different term is often used behind a Hendiadyoin (Greek hen dia dyoin = one through two), which consists of two words. “He comes with a bag and baggage” means, as with “belongings”, that someone comes with all his possessions and possibly accompanied. It is similar with another Hendiadyoin, like “Kind und Kegel”.

Two words become one

Whereas with the tautology each individual word can also stand for itself and semantically clarify what it is about. Abbreviations are often a treasure trove of tautological unwantedities: “HIV virus”, “pin number”. The V in HIV already stands for Virus and the N in Pin is already abbreviated from “Personal Identification Number”. Pseudo-official German sentences are also bursting with lame tautologies: "Unauthorized copying of works protected by copyright is prohibited."

In advertising, however, the principle “say it twice” is used well and effectively: “The German Post. The Post for Germany ”or with the claim“ Commerzbank - the bank at your side ”.


tautology: "Rank and file", "one and everything"
Hendiadyoin: It sure is “nice and cool” today (for: “pleasently cool”) Pleonasm: stupid idiots, healthy vitamins

Test yourself!

T (autology), P (leonasmus) or H (endiadyoin)