There is a family of expressions called oxymorons which contain contradicting meanings. What about expressions that add little meaning like "fatally injured" or "the evening sunset"? What are these expressions called?

  • 2
    It's called, freedom of speech
    – Thursagen
    Sep 2, 2011 at 8:51
  • 4
    How does “fatally” not add meaning to “injured”?
    – F'x
    Sep 2, 2011 at 9:06
  • If it's in the context of an accident, the expression doesn't add anything to the fact that a person was instantly killed. On the other hand, saying that a person succombed to their injuries adds the information that they were still alive shortly afterwards.
    – James P.
    Sep 2, 2011 at 9:16
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    I think "fatally killed" is a better example, that would be better reduced to "killed". If they weren't killed, then of course they were just "injured".
    – Hugo
    Sep 2, 2011 at 9:43
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    "fatally injured" invariably means someone didn't die at the time of the injury. They died later, probably either in hospital or in an ambulance on the way there, despite best medical efforts. It's not at all a "superfluous" pairing of words. Sep 2, 2011 at 17:36

2 Answers 2


These are known as tautologies or tautologous expressions.

Some examples from the Guardian Style Guide:

Aum Shinrikyo
means Supreme Truth sect, but note that the "aum" means sect, so to talk about the "Aum sect" or "Aum cult" is tautologous

a written declaration made on oath, so "sworn affidavit" is tautologous.

Eid al-Adha
(Festival of Sacrifice) Muslim festival laid down in Islamic law, celebrates the end of the hajj. Note that eid means festival, so it is tautologous to describe it as the “Eid festival

an opening strategy that involves some sacrifice or concession; so to talk of an opening gambit is tautologous — an opening ploy might be better

plural, of royalty; “royal regalia” is tautologous

As a side note, tautologies are often found in place names, my favourite is The La Brea Tar Pits, meaning The The Tar Tar Pits.

  • I'll accept your answer. Do you happen to know if there is a difference between tautology, pleonasm and redudancy? Or are they synonymous?
    – James P.
    Sep 2, 2011 at 9:30
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    They can usually be used synonymously in this context, but of course there are subtle differences: fun-with-words.com/redundancies.html Tautology is also a term used in logic, and redundancies can apply to lost jobs and having extra backup computer systems in case one stops working (such as in the shuttle).
    – Hugo
    Sep 2, 2011 at 10:18

I've found the word I was looking for. It's pleonasm:


pleonasm (countable and uncountable; plural pleonasms) (uncountable, rhetoric) Redundancy in wording.  [quotations ▼] (countable) A phrase involving pleonasm, that is, a phrase in which one or more words are redundant as their meaning is expressed elsewhere in the phrase. "The two of them are both the same" is a pleonasm (as the word "both" is redundant), as is "killed dead".

Some better examples:

  • "Could you repeat that again?"
  • "The crowd was vociferating loudly."

In the same genre there is also redundancies and tautologies.

  • 1
    Yes, I would probably go for "pleonasm" in your case-- there's not much in it, but possibly "pleonasm" is more common if you mean more of a linguistic phenomenon (e.g. a redundant phrase that is commonly used as you have), whereas a "tautology" is more of a redundancy of logic or redundancy used as a rhetorical device. But as I say, I don't think there's so much in it either. Sep 2, 2011 at 12:40

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