Rhetorical Devices: Tricolon

Manner of Speaking

This post is part of a series on rhetoric and rhetorical devices. For other posts in the series, please click this link.

Device: Tricolon

Origin: From the Greek τρία (tria), meaning “three” and κῶλον (kôlon), meaning “member” or “clause”.

In plain English: A series of three words, phrases or sentences that are parallel in structure, length and/or rhythm.


  • Three words, phrases or sentences combine to make a single, powerful impression.
  • A tricolon allows you to emphasize your point in a pithy and memorable way.
  • A tricolon is a powerful device for humour. The first two elements get the audience thinking you are going in one direction, but the third element introduces an unexpected twist. Just think of any joke that begins, “Three ___ walk into a bar …”. See, also, the quotes from Dorothy Parker and Johnny Depp at the end of the post.


  • Tricolons are one of…

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