Is there a word that describes the case of using an adjective to describe a noun that already suggests as much?


  • the pretty model won all of the awards
  • the smart genius answered every question
  • the dangerous monster ate the man
  • the fast jet
  • the floating buoy

Some of these examples might not be the best, but I hope they give the right idea. I know they are superfluous, but I'm not trying to define the adjectives themselves, but the act of using them.

  • 1
    They're all just appropriate adjectives. There's an element of tautology in smart genius, but not really in any of the others. The overuse of adjectives is a "common mistake for new [creative] writers", but apart from calling it flowery or similar, I don't know any dedicated grammatical term for this. – FumbleFingers Jan 27 '13 at 21:24
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    Redundancy, perhaps? I gave the example, "the professional MLB player" which is super redundant. – Jacob Raccuia Jan 27 '13 at 21:47
  • Similar to "eponymous". – Russell McMahon Jan 27 '13 at 21:51
  • @Jacob: Most people, most of the time, would assume that the words being bandied about here - tautology, superfluous, redundant, etc., imply negative criticism. But in fact all your examples just show how people actually use English (both spoken and written), so it would be just as correct to call them normal. You could perhaps say the adjectives are being used to amplify or emphasise an implicit meaning. – FumbleFingers Jan 27 '13 at 21:57
  • 'Pleonasm' is the fancy word for redundant terns. – Mitch Jan 27 '13 at 22:15

We would normally call an expression with a redundant adjective that served only to express a tautology, a pleonasm. Pleonasms are not always a bad thing, as they can add clarity or emphasis.

Note though:

A model is anyone whose body is used aesthetically, as a photographic or artistic subject, or as a background for clothes, demonstrably, or otherwise, and not necessarily pretty.

A djinn or spirit—for which genius is a synonym—may not be smart, and some quite stupid genii figure in some stories.

That monsters by several definitions, need not be dangerous.

That fast is relative, and some jets are much slower than others.

That some buoys can sink when damaged.

Hence these are not true pleonasms.

  • I presume that these sentences would be used in context, and with the context, one would assume that the model is beautiful, or that the monster is going to eat someone since this particular one has huge teeth. So these phrases may not be true pleonasms, but it was the word I wanted! – Jacob Raccuia Jan 27 '13 at 23:03

You could describe them as redundant if they're not actually needed, but sometimes redundancy and repetition can be useful to emphasise an important point and paint a fuller picture.


A pretty model is not necessarily redundant. Just because she is a model does not make her "pretty". She could be a sub-par model who is the daughter of the boss. A smart genius could mean someone who is thin and intelligent. A monster might be psychologically evil but not dangerous. A fast jet describes one in the air and not on the ground. And a floating buoy is one in the water and not in the fish house. Adjectives all have their wondrous place next the the noun.

  • All due respect, but this was already addressed earlier, both your part, and my response. See the accepted answer! You are right though, adjectives do have a wondrous place. – Jacob Raccuia Jan 28 '13 at 4:58

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