What is the term when a word is used consecutively twice, with intentional stress placed on the first word, as a means to alter the severity of the word's meaning? I am not referring to a past perfect (had had) or a relative-demonstrative (that that), but to the slightly sarcastic use as demonstrated in shows like Seinfeld.

Sample sentences, with emphasis:

I know we're going out to eat, but I am only going to pick at an appetizer because I'm not hungry hungry.

Don't wear something so formal to the party; I don't think you need to be dressed dressed.

Of personal note, some of my relatives decided a few years ago to nick-name the term a "Celaine" (a combination of their names) due to their own frequent use of it.

Note: This question explicitly requests the term of art used by linguists and English scholars when discussing this phenomenon. This question is different from a similar question which requests a historical explanation for the phenomenon described by this term. None of the answers to the suggested duplicate provide the term. The author of the similar question requests the term for the pattern in a comment, but does not receive an acceptable answer. The only mention of an acceptable term is in a comment made by the author of this question, in response to the author of the similar question, directing back to this very question.

  • 6
    The stress pattern (not "emphasis" -- that's a desired effect, but not an observable phenomenon) is very important. As is a particular intonation curve that goes with the reduplication (that's the technical term) of predicates in this particular idiom class. Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 3:09
  • 5
    It has a special meaning. The first (higher-pitched) hungry or dressed, followed by a lower-pitched hungry or dressed means "truly, absolutely, seriously, I-really-mean-it hungry or dressed". The reduction in severity you note is because both of your example sentences are negative. In the affirmative, this construction increases its severity. E.g, I'm hungry. And when I say I'm hungry, I mean I'm hungry hungry. Got it? Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 3:15
  • 2
    @JohnLawler - correct. In any of these items, we could insert the words , meaning or , as in, between the two duplicate words, and the sentence would work the same. I'm hungry, as in, hungry. or We have to get dressed, meaning dressed. You are correct that my samples are both negative in tone, which was accidental on my part. I applied a correction.
    – JoshDM
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 17:23

2 Answers 2


It is called contrastive focus reduplication in one popular analysis (Ghomeshi et al (2004)). Scholars in the same analysis also refer to it as a double-construction. In Lee (2006), you will see the type of intonation on the first instance of the repeated word ("B accent") referred to as a case of contrastive topic. Both papers are nice reads if you're into that sort of thing.

  • 1
    I can CONFIRM-confirm that the term is "contrastive reduplication" (CR), also referred to in the Ghomeshi document by other scholars as a "double-construction".
    – JoshDM
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 18:08
  • 1
    There is now a Wiki entry with a number of references: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrastive_focus_reduplication I would enjoy seeing early examples.
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 13:17
  • @DjinTonic - created in late 2014; I'd like to think this question/answer influenced the creation of that entry. :-)
    – JoshDM
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 0:38

I suspect a specific name exists for the illustrated pattern; at the moment I don't know that name. But there are some general terms (hypernyms of the specific term, if it exists) that may apply:
Epizeuxis, “repetition of words in immediate succession, for vehemence or emphasis”
Antanaclasis, “the stylistic scheme of repeating a single word or phrase, but with a different meaning each time”; also “A form of pun in which a word is repeated in two different senses”

Some additional terms that refer to repeated words appear in wikipedia's Repetition (rhetorical device) article.

  • 1
    +1 upvoted as this is a good answer, but the supplied pattern is definitely not an antanaclasis, nor does it match the examples from epizeuxis.
    – JoshDM
    Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 22:46

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