Tricolon Examples: Possibly The Most Influential Rhetorical Device

Are you unable to grasp the concept of the tricolon? We all encounter the word tricolon at least once in a literature class. Thus, it is better to understand the concept, so you know the next time your professor mentions it. 

Moreover, a professional public speaker must check out some practical tricolon examples from world-class speeches to better understand its usage.

Practice it as much as possible to be confident enough to use it when addressing a public gathering.

Tricolon Definition

If you love using hendiadys or epizeuxis, you will eventually start loving tricolons once you understand them. Tricolons are sometimes known as tricola in plural form. 

The word tricolon is a combination of the Greek word "Tri," meaning three. In contrast, the phrase colon comes from "kolon," which refers to a member or clause.

In simple English, we refer to three consecutive and parallel phrases as tricolons. Also, this parallelism depends upon their rhythmic property in length and structure. 

The essential part to note here is that the tricolon always appears in succession without interruption. In addition, the tricolon consists of words that emphasize one another. 

For example, you can go with, "I came, I saw, I left." Although there is no predicate part in either of the three phrases, they link strongly and convey some meaning. We will discuss some more examples of tricolons in the following sections.

Why Do We Need a Tricolon?

You may wonder about the importance of the tricolon when so many distinctive figures of speech are present. Have you ever wanted to address the public and make them understand your opinion? That is where tricolons help. 

You can take the help of the tricolon to help you better emphasize what you wish to say. Furthermore, tricolons have a persuasive nature in rhetorical devices. 

People who use tricolons need your attention on something important. Hence, you may consider it a phrase that requires a call to action. The surprising part here is you may have used it countless times without realizing it. 

You may have heard the phrase, "of the people, by the people, for the people." This tricolon is the title of a famous book by past American president Abraham Lincoln. Here, you will see his emphasis on the word 'people.'

By using tricolons, you get an idea of what the writer is trying to say by making it all about people and what they need. That is how these three parallel phrases work.

Tricolon Examples in Literature

Being an active driver, you unconsciously abide by the traffic lights slogan, "stop, look, listen." In the same way, writers emphasize their work by using tricolons to make the text look more attractive and convey the message intended.

One of the most famous tricolons is by Ted Elliot. In the book Pirates of the Caribbean, the writers state, "spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically." 

If you link the text to the complete sentence, you will realize how tricolons can add to the humor and surprise the reader with a sudden twist.

Likewise, Dorothy Parker says, "I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless, and stupid." The last part of the sentence describes the characteristics of a man. She is a fictional writer and loves to add a touch of irony to her work which is quite evident from this example.

Another of the remarkable works by Edna Millay can be seen in this poem. She writes, "Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave." There are more examples of tricolons in her work, which you can check out here.

Before we move to the speeches, here is an example from Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Be sincere, be sincere, be seated." He leaves a little crux for the readers to take as an ending note in this tricolon to remember for a lifetime.

Tricolon Examples in Presidential Speeches

As seen in literary works, the tricolons are important in speeches and presidential addresses.

Back in 2013, addressing the public for Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama said, "And when the night grows dark when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, and when our best-laid plans seem beyond our reach." These lines were built on one another and beautifully addressed the memorial service.


Let us look at another of Lincoln's addresses, where he quotes, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow." This sentence refers to soldiers' hard work, and Lincoln appreciates their struggles by using the tricolon here, declaring them sacred.

Here is another one by Dwight Eisenhower. He said, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." The first few lines signify the use of the tricolon.

So, now the tricolons must be on your fingertips as you would be able to read them, understand them, and write them.

Wrapping It Up: Tricolon Uses

Tricolons can be a bit tricky when you first come across them. It tends to appear in writings, lectures, and almost every literary work out there. Thus, we came up with a guide on tricolons so you can finally understand what they are and how to use them in your work.

This article states examples that are common and used by everyone around you daily. Tricolons are three phrases used collectively in a rhythmic pattern in a structured paragraph or sentence

We highlighted a few texts from famous authors and presidential speeches for your understanding. Therefore, you do not need to stress this rhetorical device anymore. This article will clear all the confusion you may have.

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