Suppose I want to adapt a saying or a well known phrase to another purpose. The original meaning and context are not preserved, but nevertheless the original source remains deliberately evident in the adaptation.

What is a good word for that?

I originally thought of the word paraphrase, but according to the Wikipedia that is defined as a restatement of the meaning of a text or passage using other words.

But I want to do the reverse; I want to use similar and familiar words for a different meaning.

The source phrases are by Carl Jung who wrote "No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell", and by Aldous Huxley who coined the term "the doors of perception".

And I adapted it into: "Computation is a magical tree — its roots are in the mechanical and its leafs are at the doors of perception."

Edit, Dec 28 - I would like to note the background for this question.

The word paraphrase has been imported into my native language, Hebrew, as paraphrasa (פרפרזה), but in Hebrew it is often used in the sense that I am interested in — that is, using a modified but familiar phrase for a different meaning.

However, the source phrase is generally one that can be attributed to an author and not just a figure of speech.

  • Can you show us one example? The following is the rule of this community. Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests. Please edit your question accordingly.
    – user140086
    Dec 26, 2015 at 10:22
  • edited with an example.
    – nir
    Dec 26, 2015 at 10:46

2 Answers 2


One obvious candidate word would be repurpose. From NOAD:

repurpose (v.) adapt for use in a different purpose

One blogger used this word in her piece about the term Black Friday:

...retailers have since repurposed the phrase and given it the more positive connotation that it has today.

Here's another example:

That’s why Liu says she helped coin the term, the ‘China Dream.’ Even though the Chinese government has repurposed the phrase to talk about rejuvenating China, initially it was supposed to be a response to the American Dream and the cornerstone of Liu’s project.


What you describe sounds very much like metalepsis.

From the wiki: "... a figure of speech in which a word or a phrase from figurative speech is used in a new context."

The example they give is "I've got to catch the worm tomorrow", which is adapted from "the early bird catches the worm", but changes the context and arguably the meaning to some extent.

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