A professor of mine once used a phrase or term for skipping a word of a poetic statement that has already been said. His example was that "a stitch in time saves nine" should really be "a stitch in time saves nine stitches", but since you already know the subject of the sentence, it can just be skipped over.

Does anyone know a phrase to describe that?

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    It's not paricularly "poetic". It's just the standard "deletion" of predictably repeated elements, which routinely happens in all contexts (but is slightly less common in extremely formal contexts, such as legal documents). Dec 6, 2020 at 16:43
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    The less common more drastic deletion to 'A stitch in time' etc was common among some pupils at the school I was at (as a pupil). Dec 6, 2020 at 16:48
  • @FumbleFingers My professor used it in a poetic context (he was going over why some poetry in ancient languages can be difficult to decipher because the rules for deletion (thanks for the phrase) aren't always known, so interpretation is needed for which subject is the right one. It makes sense that it could be used outside of poetry, though!
    – Jake
    Dec 6, 2020 at 17:11
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    It applies to all sorts of contexts and constructions, but it's very much rule-governed. You can't delete just anything; *This is a very long book and that is an extremely short doesn't work. You have to have something after short, like one. Dec 6, 2020 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


I think the technical term is ellipsis.

You can check the definition here. Here you can find plenty of synonyms so you can have your pick.

  • Thank you! I wouldn't have thought that the word for "..." could be used in that way, but it makes perfect sense. Does the sentence, "'A stitch in time saves nine' contains an ellipsis." make sense?
    – Jake
    Dec 6, 2020 at 17:12
  • Yes, it does make sense. You could also say Ellipsis is used in the sentence 'A stitch in time saves nine.'
    – fev
    Dec 6, 2020 at 19:34

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