What is it called when you use one, very specific example/description which implicitly includes lots of other things, for example when you are describing a person?

I'm not talking about a metaphor like "she is my sun". What I refer to is more like, instead of describing qualities or feelings, you use one example that implies those qualities.

Example: "She is the one who showed up at every football match" instead of describing "She always showed up and she was always there for you".

It's implied that she was not only fantastic because she watched every game, but because she always showed up, but you use an example instead of describing. (It's not the ultimate example but I couldn't come up with another right now.) The example says something more about the thing described than just the literal meaning.


6 Answers 6



Understatement, especially of artistic expression.

This replaced the open emotional force and physical excitement of ‘hot’ jazz with deliberate understatement and restraint. Lexico

His touch is astonishingly mature; he mixes disturbing images with poignantly restrained detail. John Carrinton; Our Greatest Writers

The restraint which Holmes shows, in giving poignant details without heavy moralising, is part of what makes his descriptions so memorable. Holmes brings Sara's isolation home to the reader by admitting us to details which ... Susan Tridgell; Understanding Our Selves: The Dangerous Art of Biography


Synecdoche is when you name a part to mean the whole thing: referring to your car as "a set of wheels" or some people in the office as "suits".

Could you extend that to your situation? I think so.



1a: the act or process of exemplifying 1b: EXAMPLE, CASE IN POINT
2: an exemplified copy of a document


transitive verb

1: to show or illustrate by example anecdotes exemplifying those virtues
2: to make an attested copy or transcript of (a document) under seal
3a: to be an instance of or serve as an example : EMBODY
//she exemplifies the qualities of a good leader//
b: to be typical of
//a dish that exemplifies French cuisine//

Exemplification writing



Although polysemy is usually used to describe words or phrases that have two or more different interpretations in more of a pun sort of style, it can also work here as the example sentence has both a literal meaning and an implied meaning that are quite different from each other.

From Wikipedia; Polysemy (/pəˈlɪsɪmi/ or /ˈpɒlɪsiːmi/;[1][2] from Greek: πολύ-, polý-, "many" and σῆμα, sêma, "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple related meanings.

  • Ths would be improved with a dictionary definition/link for polysemy. Sep 5, 2021 at 12:27

In terms of rhetorical devices, it could be considered a type of analogy — one which would be classified as exemplification:

Types of Analogy

As the definition of analogy includes all types of comparisons, the following list of literary devices all qualify as analogies:

  • Metaphor: A metaphor compares two subjects without any connecting words such as “like” or “as.” Metaphors are considered a strong form of analogy as they assert that one thing is another.
  • Simile: A simile is a comparison between two things using the connecting words “like” or “as.” Not quite as strong of a comparison
    as metaphor, simile still requires the reader to understand the
    similarities between the two things and make new cognitive links.
  • Allegory: An allegory is a story in which the characters, images, and/or events function as symbols. These symbols can be interpreted to have deeper significance and may illustrate moral truths or a political or historical situation.
  • Parable: Similar to allegory, though more condensed, a parable is a simple story used to illustrate an instructive lesson or principal.
  • Exemplification: Exemplification is the relation between a sample and what it refers to. For example, if a sign at an arboretum said “oak” in front of an oak tree, that tree would be an exemplification of the label.

Source: Literary Devices — Analogy

So if you use showed up at every football match to mean more broadly that was always there for you, that would be an exemplification of the concept of “being there for you.”

Oak is to tree as showed up to every football game is to always there for you.


I'd use understated (an antonym of 'over-effusive', 'gushy').

understated [adjective]

presented or expressed in a subtle and effective way.

  • ‘They both have a powerful sense of humour and an understated wit that makes you look very carefully at what's on the page in case you miss anything.’


He praised her unstinting support in a pleasingly understated way.

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