Abstract Diction:What,How,Examples (Complete Guide !)

In this art, we will be getting to know in detail about the abstract diction. With the help of abstract diction examples we shall know what abstract diction is, how, when, where, why it is used and various other important facts.

Abstract diction is nothing but the usage of abstract words. When the words and style of writing is used to describe or express an emotion, a feeling, a state or any abstract idea, which cannot be seen or touched but can only be felt, then those words are known as abstract diction.

Do go through the abstract diction examples used in the following sentences.

  • 1. ‘Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks.’ – Sonnet 116
  • 2. ‘O’er hope, a heavy sway?’ – Life
  • 3. ‘O beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.’ – Othello
  • 4. ‘What is this death but a negligible accident?’ – Death Is Nothing At All
  • 5. ‘Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.’ – Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

 The words that are italicized in the above sentences are the abstract diction used by the authors to denote an intangible abstract emotion, a state or a feeling that does not indicate any concrete idea or object.

What is abstract diction?

Diction basically means the style of writing, the choice of words and vocabulary adopted by a person (a writer) to convey his or her thoughts. Abstract diction in particular means the choice of abstract words. When the diction used does not refer to any concrete and tangible idea and objects, but rather refers to an emotion, a feeling or a state that is intangible (cannot be seen or touched), then it is called as abstract diction.

Example: ‘Where knowledge is free, where the world has not been broken up into fragments.’ – Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

‘Knowledge’ is the abstract diction utilized in these lines by Rabindranath Tagore in his poem ‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high’ to denote the information gained with the aid of education and experience. ‘Knowledge’ is an abstract diction as it is something that cannot be touched and seen (concrete), but can only be felt and experienced (abstract).

How to use abstract diction?

Abstract diction can be used by forming them from adjectives, verbs and common nouns.

Example: ‘Honesty is the best policy.’

‘Honesty’ is the abstract diction utilized in the above example. ‘Honesty’ denotes the state of being honest and true. The abstract diction ‘honesty’ is used by forming it from the adjective ‘honest’. ‘Honesty’ is an abstract diction as it is something that cannot be touched and seen (tangible), but can only be felt and experienced (intangible).

Example: ‘Believers find obedience a joy, not a burden.’ – The Bible

‘Obedience’ is the abstract diction utilized in the above verse from the Bible. ‘Obedience’ denotes the state of being obedient. The abstract diction ‘obedience’ is used by forming it from the verb ‘obedient’. ‘Obedience’ is an abstract diction as it is an emotion that cannot be touched and seen (tangible), but can only be felt and experienced (intangible).

Example: ‘When I think of my childhood, I see something very heavy, very cold, like a block of ice.’ – Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon has utilized the abstract diction ‘childhood’ in his quote to denote the state, emotion and feeling of being a child. The abstract diction ‘childhood’ is formed from the common noun ‘child’ to represent an abstract idea which can only be experienced and cannot be touched or seen concretely.

abstract diction
Abstract Diction Examples

Where to use abstract diction?

Abstract diction must be used at places where one finds the need to state an emotion, feeling or any abstract idea which will appeal to the emotions of the readers or listeners as these abstract diction can be intangible and concrete but they can be felt and experienced because they are relatable.

Example: ‘The carriage held but just ourselves- and Immortality,’ – Because I Could Not Stop For Death

Emily Dickinson has beautifully used the abstract diction of ‘immortality’ in her poem ‘Because I Could Not Stop For Death’ to convey to the readers the abstract idea or the state of being immortal. The state of being immortal is abstract as ‘immortality’ can only be felt and experienced and cannot be seen concretely.

Abstract diction use

Abstract diction is used for various purposes, but the most commonly used purposes of abstract diction are as follows.

1. Abstract diction is used to represent and denote the qualities of human (human qualities) and the state of being of which some of them include love, courage, beauty, confidence, elegance, compassion, charity, enthusiasm, brilliance, goodness, kindness, humility, patience, trust, wisdom, warmth, sympathy etc.

Example: ‘Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom.’ – Sonnet 116

‘Love’ is the abstract diction which is personified in William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 – Let me not to the marriage of true minds. ‘Love’ is the abstract diction utilized here by William Shakespeare to denote the human quality of love. ‘Love’ is an emotion and feeling that is not tangible and concrete but is abstract and can be experienced.

2. Abstract diction is utilized to denote the various feelings and emotions of human kind. It helps to convey how a human feels. Examples of human emotions are delight, grief, happiness, pride, relief, pleasure, worry, surprise, joy, friendship, excitement, despair, clarity, misery, satisfaction, tiredness etc.

Example: ‘Friendship maketh daylight in the understanding, out of darkness and confusion of thoughts.’ – On Friendship

The abstract diction utilized by Francis Bacon in the above line is ‘friendship’. ‘Friendship’ is the abstract diction used here to represent the abstract feeling and emotion between friends. ‘Friendship’ is something that cannot be touched and seen, but can only be felt as it is intangible.

Example: ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever.’ – Endymion

John Keats in his above line from Endymion has utilized the abstract diction of ‘beauty’ and ‘joy’. The abstract diction ‘beauty’ is used to denote the state of being beautiful, which is nothing but a human quality. ‘Joy’ is yet another abstract diction utilized here to represent the human feeling and emotion of being joyous. Both ‘beauty’ and ‘joy’ are intangible as they can only be experienced and felt by a human.

3. Abstract diction is also utilized in order to represent or denote an abstract idea or concept. Some of such abstract ideas and concepts are faith, imagination, freedom, information, knowledge, justice, forgiveness, liberty, motivation, peace, patriotism honesty, poverty, childhood, parenthood etc.

Example: ‘The quality of mercy is not strain’d. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.’ – The Merchant of Venice

‘Mercy’ is the abstract diction utilized by William Shakespeare in the above lines from ‘The Merchant of Venice’ to represent the idea of being merciful. ‘Mercy’ is an abstract idea or concept which cannot be touched and seen physically but can be felt emotionally.

Abstract diction examples

  • 1. ‘Because I could not stop for Death– He kindly stopped for me-‘ – Because I could not stop for Death
  • 2. ‘Our passions once so high, Being mocked by the still earth and calm sunshine.’ – Is This The End?
  • 3. ‘What though sorrow seems to win? O’er hope, a heavy sway? Yet Hope again elastic springs,’ – Life
  • 4. ‘Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness’ – On Children
  • 5. ‘When my last joys strewed the ground, Even sorrow saw repenting,’ – Hope
  • 6. ‘Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way;’ – A Psalm of Life
  • 7. ‘Where words come out from the depth of truth.’- Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

Abstract diction examples with detailed explanations

Now let us here identify, analyze and understand the abstract diction used in each and every example sentences.

1. ‘Because I could not stop for Death– He kindly stopped for me-‘ – Because I could not stop for Death

Emily Dickinson has utilized the abstract diction ‘death’ in the above lines in her poem, ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ to denote the abstract state of being dead, which cannot be touched but can only be felt and experienced.

2. ‘Our passions once so high, Being mocked by the still earth and calm sunshine.’ – Is This The End?

Aurobindo in the above lines in his poem ‘Is This The End?’ has utilized the abstract diction ‘passion’ which is a human emotion and feeling of being passionate. ‘Passion’ is not concrete and tangible as it cannot be physically seen but only emotionally perceived and sensed.

3. ‘What though sorrow seems to win? O’er hope, a heavy sway? Yet Hope again elastic springs,’ – Life

‘Sorrow’ and ‘hope’ are two abstract diction that Charlotte Bronte has utilized in the lines in her poem ‘Life’. ‘Sorrow’ is an abstract emotion of being sad and dejected. ‘Hope’ is yet another abstract diction to denote the human quality of being hopeful. Both ‘hope’ and ‘sorrow’ are intangible and hence are abstract.

4. ‘Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness’ – On Children

Khalil Gibran has utilized the abstract diction ‘gladness’ in the above line in his poem ‘On Children’ in order to represent the human quality of being glad and happy. ‘Gladness’ is abstract as it a feeling that is emotionally experienced by human beings and not physically viewed and touched.

5. ‘When my last joys strewed the ground, Even sorrow saw repenting,’ – Hope

‘Joys’ and ‘Sorrow’ are the abstract diction used by Emily Dickinson in her lines in the poem ‘Hope’. ‘Joys’ is the human emotion of being joyful and the abstract diction ‘sorrow’ is personified here to represent the unhappiness. ‘Joys’ and ‘sorrow’ are abstract as they are intangible and can only be perceived.

6. ‘Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way;’ – A Psalm of Life

‘Enjoyment’ and ‘sorrow’ are the abstract diction used by H.W. Longfellow in his lines in the poem ‘A Psalm of Life’. ‘Enjoyment’ is the human emotion of enjoying. ‘Sorrow’ is used to denote the feeling of being dejected. Since, both ‘enjoyment’ and ‘sorrow’ are intangible and can only be felt and experienced, they are abstract diction.

7. ‘Where words come out from the depth of truth.’- Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

‘Truth’ is the abstract diction Rabindranath Tagore has used in the lines in his poem ‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high’. ‘Truth’ is the diction used to represent an abstract idea or concept of being true or truthful. ‘Truth’ is an abstract diction as it is not concrete.

Conclusion

Thus from the facts, examples and explanations given above, we came to know that abstract diction is the choice of writing style adopted by the writers which includes words and vocabulary that are abstract (human emotions, feelings, state of mind, quality etc) that can be emotionally perceived by humans but cannot be touched physically.

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