I'm writing an essay (yay) on I'm the King of the Castle, by Susan Hill.

I am trying to explain how the description of the atmosphere may have hidden meanings (e.g. the fact that Warings is a solitary house could show how Kingshaw feels). But I can't think of the word!

So my question is: What is the word used to describe a phrase which has a hidden meaning?

Oh, and also: What is the word for something that represents something else, e.g. a cat chasing a Mouse could represent a bully and a victim. Is it just symbolism? Metaphor?


9 Answers 9



1. a poem, play, picture, etc, in which the apparent meaning of the characters and events is used to symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual meaning 2. the technique or genre that this represents 3. use of such symbolism to illustrate truth or a moral 4. anything used as a symbol or emblem

The literary device is known as a 'Symbolism in literature' or a variant.

The symbolist movement in literature / by Arthur ... . Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945 states:

Symbolism in literature really is: a form of expression, at the best but approximate, essen- tially but arbitrary, until it has obtained the force of a convention, for an unseen reality ap- prehended by the consciousness. It is some- times permitted to us to hope that our conven- Rtion is indeed the reflection rather than merely the sign of that unseen reality.


Double entendre (edited Wiki excerpt):

A double entendre is a figure of speech or a particular way of wording that is devised to be understood in either of two ways, having a double meaning. Typically one of the meanings is obvious, given the context whereas the other may require more thought. The innuendo may convey a message that would be socially awkward, sexually suggestive or offensive to state directly. (The Oxford English Dictionary describes a double entendre as being used to "convey an indelicate meaning", whilst Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines it as "a word or phrase that may be understood in two different ways, one of which is often sexual")

A double entendre may exploit puns to convey the second meaning. Double entendres generally rely on multiple meanings of words, or different interpretations of the same primary meaning. They often exploit ambiguity and may be used to introduce it deliberately in a text. Sometimes a homophone (i.e. another word which sounds the same) can be used as a pun.

A person who is unfamiliar with the hidden or alternative meaning of a sentence may fail to detect its innuendos, aside from observing that others find it humorous for no apparent reason. Perhaps because it is not offensive to those who do not recognize it, innuendo is often used in sitcoms and other comedy considered suitable for children, who may enjoy the comedy while being oblivious to its second meanings. For example, it has been suggested that Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing used this ploy to present a surface level description of the play as well as a pun on the Elizabethan use of "nothing" as slang for vagina.

  • I find it odd that this question's been open for a year and neither this phrase, nor innuendo were on it.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 2:26

I think that you are referring to Symbolism:

  1. The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships.

The solitary house becomes symbolic of (represents) his loneliness.

The cat chasing a mouse can be used as a Metaphor:

  1. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in "a sea of troubles" or "All the world's a stage" (Shakespeare).

Source Collins Dictionary

I think your guess is right.


Euphemism : a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.


occult -

  1. of or relating to magic, astrology, or any system claiming use or knowledge of secret or supernatural powers or agencies.

  2. beyond the range of ordinary knowledge or understanding; mysterious.

  3. secret; disclosed or communicated only to the initiated.

  4. hidden from view.


I think "cryptic" might be what you're looking for.


You've probably already written your paper, but as the meaning is hidden, I believe the word you want is steganography.


Metaphor, symbol, and allegory may work

  • 1
    Two of those answers have already been given. Please explain why you think these words may work.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 12:31

A euphemism might be what you are after

  • 3
    Hi, and thanks for taking the time to post under this question. It's great that you want to help. However, this answer doesn't really seem to be a full answer. When answering it's best, in the case of single-word-requests, to give a good explanation why the word you're suggesting is a good one. If necessary quote and reference a dictionary. Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 20:55

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