Asteismus (as-te-is’-mus): Polite or genteel mockery. More specifically, a figure of reply in which the answerer catches a certain word and throws it back to the first speaker with an unexpected twist. Less frequently, a witty use of allegory or comparison, such as when a literal and an allegorical meaning are both implied.

A: Hey baby, I’m gonna throw you a little kiss.

B: And I’m going to throw you your car keys so you can get the hell out of here. All I wanted was a ride home. I invited you in as a courtesy. I thought you could use some coffee. Why’d you put your keys on the table by the sofa, by me?

A: I was marking my territory, baby.

B: You are creepy. Your territory is out in the driveway. Time to go.

A: Ok. I’ll see you tomorrow at work. We can talk things over. Maybe you’ll see the light.

B: I’d rather stumble around in the dark.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

Paper and Kindle versions of The Daily Trope are available at Amazon under the title The Book of Tropes.

Comments are closed.