I can't seem to remember this word. It's uncommon and is used to refer to the promise that "if 'some unlikely event happens', I'll do 'something well outside my comfort zone that I would otherwise not do'".

For example, a lot of college applicants say "If I get into Harvard, I'll ask out this person" or a professional may say "if I land this client, I'm buying a Porche". What word would refer to this?

To clarify, this is not simple hyperbole. The if-condition, while unlikely is not impossible and the then-clause is expected to be fulfilled if the if-condition is met.

Not sure if it's a single word or phrase, so I'm leaving both tags in

  • Subjunctive conditional...?
    – Ram Pillai
    Nov 6, 2020 at 23:49
  • @RamPillai - that's more general than what I'm thinking of (honestly at this point im starting to think that the word isn't english :( )
    – user760900
    Nov 7, 2020 at 8:41

1 Answer 1


Adynaton (plural adynata) is a figure of speech in the form of hyperbole taken to such extreme lengths as to insinuate a complete impossibility.

Or "idiom of improbability" which is used to denote that a given event is impossible or extremely unlikely to occur.

  • It's my understanding that adynata are hyperbole; the speakers don't actually intend to execute on the promise. For example, adynaton would refer to "I'll give your this book when pigs can fly". The rhetorician has no intention of ever giving the subject the book, even if pigs somehow fly. However, in the question, it is not beyond reason to think the condition, while unlikely, can apply; if the condition does apply, than the rhetorician in the question does intend to fulfill the promise.
    – user760900
    Nov 6, 2020 at 18:56

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