- An Aesop: The moral of the story. If it seems like people are frequently critical of these, it's because they tend to be Anvilicious.
- Affably Evil: Villains that are genuinely genial and polite.
- All There in the Manual: Information not actually mentioned within the work, but only found in other material related to it.
- Alpha Bitch: The "queen bee" in a high school setting who makes the protagonist's life hell.
- Anti-Hero: A hero who uses decidedly unheroic tactics and/or has a bad attitude.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Any technical explanation of a plot device, no matter how complicated or smart-sounding, that is practically synonymous with "works by magic".
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Finishing a list of terrible things with an innocuous one, sometimes implied to be somehow just as bad as the rest.
- Author Appeal: Inclusion of story elements partly or totally because they relate to some interest, fetish, or kink of the author's.
- Ax Crazy: A character who is psychologically unstable and clearly a danger to others.
- Back from the Dead: A character was dead but they're better now.
- Badass: A character capable of amazing (if not unbelievable) feats - usually used in reference to combat ability.
- Badass Normal: A Badass without superpowers or magic in a world where these exist.
- Berserk Button: Something that sets off a seemingly normal person into rage and fury.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Push the buttons of a nice character too much, and they may break out in anger even scaring the Big Bad.
- Beyond the Impossible: Breaking the story's internal logic, either accidentally or deliberately.
- Big Bad: The bad guy behind all the other bad guys. The single most-linked trope on this site.
- Big Damn Heroes: The good guys arrive just in time to save the day.
- Big No: Shouting "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!", usually in frustration or despair.
- Bishonen: A pretty boy from anime/manga.
- Bittersweet Ending: An ending that mixes happiness and sadness, such as victory at a high cost.
- Black Comedy: Comedy based on tasteless jokes.
- Blatant Lies: Obvious untruths. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Body Horror: Someone's body is mutating into something horrible.
- Brainwashed: A character is hypnotized into doing something against their will, but that something isn't necessarily violent.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: A character is hypnotized into attacking or destroying someone or something against their will.
- Break the Cutie: A sweet, lovable character is put through hell.
- Buffy-Speak: A fouled-up explanation of something by someone intelligent enough to understand it but not articulate/mature/educated/attentive enough to describe it.
- Butt Monkey: A character who becomes the butt of every joke or otherwise goes through hell, Played for Laughs.
- Call to Adventure: The adventure comes to find the hero.
- Canon: Plot, characterizations, and story elements that actually happened.
- Fanon: Canon that isn't -- plot, characterizations, and story elements that did not officially happen, but that the fans believe is sufficiently supported or implied by what did to "count".
- Captain Obvious: A character stating the blatantly obvious.
- Catch Phrase: A phrase constantly said by a character.
- Character Development: Change in characterization over the course of a narrative.
- Chekhov's Gun: A story element that is inconspicuously introduced now, but becomes extremely significant later.
- The Chessmaster: A character who creates complex schemes, and gets involved into various events to make said schemes work.
- Cloudcuckoolander: A character who has a spacey personality and, while not necessarily stupid, usually lapses into odd non-sequitur sayings or actions.
- Comically Missing the Point: If someone completely fails to realize what it is the other person is trying to convey, despite how obvious it is.
- Crapsack World: A place which is really horrible to live in.
- Curb Stomp Battle: A completely one-sided fight.
- Darker and Edgier: The tendency of shows to try to give themselves a new feel that is darker and edgier. Usually involves trying to add more angst, more violence, more rage from the characters, and less lighting.
- Dead Horse Trope: A trope that has been so overdone, analyzed, and mocked that its different varieties or parodies have had to be classified and given names. Most clichés are simply Discredited Tropes.
- Deadpan Snarker: A very sarcastic character.
- Deal with the Devil: A character trading their soul or a similar substitute in exchange for benefits.
- Deconstruction: Playing a trope in the way it would work in the real world, usually as criticism.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Repetitive repetition.
- Determinator: A character who never gives up.
- Deus Ex Machina: An unlikely or poorly-written element inserted into the story to specifically fix a narrative problem.
- Did Not Do the Research: Anything in fiction that is impossible or inaccurate (whether spoken, done, or shown) largely because the makers of the fiction didn't bother to do any fact-checking or didn't feel it mattered if it were true.
- Disproportionate Retribution: When a character pulls a slight offense to another, and the other plots a revenge taken Up to Eleven.
- Damsel in Distress: A female character who's all like "Save me, I'm so helpless!"
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Is this suggestive of anything else other than what it actually is? And by that, we generally mean something sexual.
- Downer Ending: No happy ending - everyone dies or at least lives on unhappily.
- The Dragon: A character which represents and embodies the brute strength of the bad guy's evil ambitions, often serving as his right-hand man, personal bodyguard or 2nd-in-command.
- Driven to Suicide: Events lead a character to kill themself.
- Eldritch Abomination: Incomprehensible aliens or demons from beyond, like Cthulhu.
- The End of the World as We Know It: Civilization or life (sometimes the entire planet) getting destroyed.
- Epileptic Trees: Wild, off-the-wall fan theories and speculation about a show's murkier plot points and characterizations.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Princesses are quite popular to use in fiction, thus they tend to show up whenever a writer can fit them in.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: When the title tells you almost everything about something; for example, the film Snakes on a Plane. Also used for YKTTWs that are exactly what they say on the title of the suggestion.
- Executive Meddling: When a work is altered solely because the higher management of the company wants it to be changed.
- Expy: A character who is very similar to another character in a different work, often by the same author.
- Fan Nickname: A name given to a character by fan communities.
- Fan Service: Material added to please the fans. Traditionally, this meant anything a casual viewer might not get, but now almost always means titillating or sexual content.
- Faux Symbolism: Inclusion of various unnecessary religious, philosophical, and historical allusions with the purpose of lending an air of sophistication to a work.
- Finagle's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Due to itself, often mis-attributed as "Murphy's Law."
- Five-Man Band: A stock heroic team with five characters whose characterizations and interactions with each other fall into different, balanced, and specific roles. Variations include the Power Trio, the Four-Girl Ensemble and the five-temperament version of Four-Temperament Ensemble. The five-man-version consists of (though this can be varied):
- Flanderization: Simplifying formerly complex characters by magnifying one of their character traits and making it their sole defining characteristic.
- The Fourth Wall: The metaphorical wall between the characters and the audience. Most fictional characters have no idea that they're in a story.
- Freudian Excuse: When the writers give an excuse on why the villain is evil (e.g. when he was a child his father would beat him).
- Freud Was Right: Audiences see sex where it isn't.
- From Bad to Worse: Just when you thought it couldn't possibly get any worse... it does.
- Genki Girl: A ridiculously energetic female character.
- Genre Blindness: When a character makes mistakes that indicate that they have never seen anything related to the genre that they are in, and who never learns from their experience. For instance, "characters splitting up while exploring a haunted house" is one of the most recognized uses of a trope out there, even among people who don't know what a "trope" is.
- Genre Savvy: The opposite of the above; a character has an understanding of tropes relevant to their situation and uses their genre knowledge to their advantage.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The act of sneaking seemingly obscene or vulgar material past network censors.
- Gilligan Cut: A character protests vehemently against doing something crazy and absurd, and the very next scene has the character doing just that. The very first trope on the wiki.
- A God Am I: A delusion where someone thinks to be Godhood/Universal ruler.
- Hand Wave: A brief explanation is offered that isn't actually an explanation, but gets the question out of the way so the story can work.
- Happy Ending: The dilemma is solved, and everyone lives on happily.
- Heel Face Turn: When a character switches sides from bad to good.
- Face Heel Turn: The opposite; a character switching sides from good to bad.
- Heroic BSOD: Some horrible event shocks the hero and makes him incapable of anything for a while.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Character makes a great sacrifice to save others.
- Hero's Journey: The standard story formula.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: That actor looks familiar...
- Hey, It's That Voice!: That voice sounds familiar...
- Hilarity Ensues: The consequences of a character's actions in a comedy show.
- Hot-Blooded: In shonen anime, everyone fights with BURNING PASSION!
- Ho Yay: A scene or event between two characters of the same gender which implies sexual tension between them.
- Foe Yay: Same thing, but between foes.
- Humongous Mecha: Giant robots, in the shape of a human, mostly from anime/manga.
- Idiot Ball: A metaphorical object held by a (normally reasonable) character which causes them to create a central plot conflict out of their own stupidity.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Groan-inducing pun. Commonly used by a Mr. Report Siht in means both cruel and unusual.
- Jerkass: A character who is offensively obnoxious.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: An obnoxious fellow who's actually a nice guy underneath.
- Just in Time: Salvation that arrives just in time to create a fake sense of suspense.
- Justified Trope: The work offers an explanation for the use of an otherwise illogical trope; can be anything from a Hand Wave to a perfectly reasonable explanation.
- Karma Houdini: A villain who gets off scot-free.
- Kick the Dog: An act done or statement made by a character in order to garner hate from the audience and illustrate their unlikable inner nature.
- Killed Off for Real: A character dies and doesn't come back.
- Knight Templar: A character convinced of his own righteousness even when crossing the line and committing villainous deeds.
- If You Know What I Mean: A character pointing out that he's saying a Double Entendre.
- Lampshade Hanging: When a writer acknowledges to the audience that a plot event is implausible or that they are using a trope. In the wiki, frequently used as a verb; i.e. "lampshading" or "lampshaded".
- Large Ham: When an actor plays a role with scenery-chewing gusto.
- Lighter and Softer: The exact opposite of Darker and Edgier. Often throws in cuter, happier and cheerier, and often more funny parts to tone down the franchise and its characters.
- Love Triangle: A relationship involving more than two people (sometimes as many as it can). Can take many forms.
- MacGuffin: A physical object, the pursuit of which drives the plot; but the purpose of the object is irrelevant to the plot.
- Mad Scientist: A character who exploits science for fun and profit.
- Magic A Is Magic A: The "Rules of the World", a set of rules and themes that make the whole universe believable as long as they're consistent. Breaking them can destroy the audience's willingness to accept the story.
- Masquerade: Weird things exist, but for some reason have to be hidden from the general public. The story thus takes place in "the real world", but with a supernatural undercurrent.
- Meaningful Name: A name with a deeper meaning, which is no coincidence.
- Memetic Mutation: Things (usually phrases) that are repeated and parodied everywhere, to the point where they become fads. Mutation comes in when the aspect being repeated is not representative of the series or character as a whole.
- Mind Rape: A mental trauma to the point where it's similar to rape.
- Mind Screw: A confusing plot so wrought with symbolism and psychological drama that it's hard to say for sure what actually happened.
- Moe: A form of adorable cuteness.
- Mood Whiplash: If a story has intense mood swings.
- Mooks: Minions. The enemy's weak, nameless foot soldiers who exist to be defeated en masse by the heroes.
- More Dakka: Firing far, far more bullets than are actually necessary.
- The Movie: A movie-length episode of a series shown in the cinemas.
- Muggles: The "normal" people who exist outside the unusual, extraordinary, supernatural, or paranormal events taking place in the plot.
- Mundane Made Awesome, formerly named "What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?": Trying to turn mundane scenes into great events using special effects or other stylistic means of direction.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: About the fact that in fiction, evil people have evil names.
- Nice Hat: Impressive headgear.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: It Got Worse, and it's the hero's fault.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Combining two or more cool things makes the whole more awesome than the sum of its parts.
- Nintendo Hard: A video game that is very difficult.
- Oh Crap: The moment at which characters realize that they are completely and totally screwed.
- The Oldest Ones in the Book: Tropes that really have been handed down by our ancestors.
- One-Winged Angel: A character (usually the Big Bad) suddenly turns into a monstrous super-human creature.
- Only Sane Man: The only character who notices the insanity in a comedy.
- Played for Laughs: Using a (usually non-comedic) trope for comedy.
- The Power of Love: When love makes some supernatural plot event happen.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Speaking! With! EMPHASIS!
- Recycled in Space: A familiar story, premise, or cast placed into a different (often fantastical or bizarre) context.
- Redemption Quest: The journey for heroes who really screwed up.
- Redshirts: The expendable, anonymous foot soldiers whose only purpose is to add emotional gravity to the story by being casualties in battle. Frequently killed off to show that a situation is dangerous without having to put one of the main characters at risk.
- Refuge in Audacity: So over-the-top and/or bizarre that it can't be considered offensive.
- Retcon: The act of portraying previously established canon information in a different way (sometimes even contradicting previous canon) to propel the current plot. Short for "Retroactive Continuity".
- Rule of Cool: If something is cool enough, it doesn't have to make sense.
- Running Gag: A joke that recurs throughout the episode or series.
- Sarcasm Mode: Marking online text to indicate sarcasm.
- Saving the World: The fate of the entire known world hangs in the balance, with the protagonists on one side and World Domination (or Destruction) on the other.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money: When a character can screw the rules because he has a lot of money.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: A villain/evil force is locked away to prevent his escape. Usually breaks free.
- Sequelitis: The unfortunately common occurrence that a sequel fails to live up to its predecessor.
- Serious Business: A frivolous or commonplace activity that all the characters on the show take more seriously than they should, and which forms the premise of the show. Sometimes extended to everyone in the characters' "world".
- Shout-Out: A nod to another property that the author enjoyed.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The idea that all stories need to answer one question about the nature of reality. The proper way to approach the conflicts in the plot is then derived from this conclusion. The question is something like "What best defeats evil? A bullet between the eyes, or The Power of Friendship?"
- Smug Snake: A character who wants to be a Magnificent Bastard but lacks magnificence.
- Stable Time Loop: A time traveller tries to prevent an event, but ends up inadvertently causing it instead.
- Stalker with a Crush: A character noted for their obsession with another character.
- Status Quo Is God: Each episode ends up with the protagonists roughly where they started, since change would mean that anybody who missed this episode would be lost. If they become rich at the beginning of the episode, they will lose the money by the end, and so on. Decades worth of shows, especially SitComs, lived by this. Averting this has become increasingly common over the years, though.
- Stealth Pun: Pun with a hidden punchline.
- Story Arc: A series of stories which gradually moves a greater story along.
- Sub-Trope: A more specialized form of another trope, but which is distinct enough to be its own trope.
- Subverted Trope: A story sets up a trope to happen and then yanks the rug out from under the audience by doing something with it that is different from their expectations. (Often referred to as "subverted" or "a subversion".)
- Take That: Whenever a work of fiction knocks something not liked by the author.
- Techno Babble: Complex or intelligent-sounding explanations meant to convey the appearance of technical depth to the story universe, but doesn't have to make any sense whatsoever.
- They Fight Crime: Got interesting characters? Need something for them to do? Something they can repeat endlessly?
- This Loser Is You: The tendency for shows to make their heroes whiny, idiotic so-and-so's, since that's what they think viewers sympathize best with.
- Title Drop: When the name of a work is spoken only once within the work, but in a particularly epic fashion.
- Too Dumb to Live: The character who puts life and limb at risk by doing things that no sane human being would do.
- Took a Level in Badass: Formerly weak character becomes a Badass.
- True Companions: Friends as close as family, and just as protective.
- Truth in Television: When a trope turns out to have a counterpart in Real Life.
- Tsundere: Females whose temperament runs both hot and cold.
- Understatement: Saying that, for example, the tropes on this page appear a few times on All The Tropes.
- Unexplained Recovery: A dead character is restored to the status quo with no explanation whatsoever.
- Up to Eleven: Reach the top, and go one step beyond.
- Viewers are Morons: The attitude often taken by producers, dumbing down shows or removing more complicated story elements to appeal to a wider audience.
- Villainous Breakdown: The moment when a villain suddenly snaps and loses his cool, sometimes becoming extremely pissed off and/or sometimes going crazy, even Laughing Mad. Often done when the tables have turned on his plans.
- What Could Have Been: Elements the authors thought about adding to the story but ultimately never did.
- What the Hell, Hero?: A hero is called on his morally ambiguous or directly evil actions by characters in the story.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: The viewers' willingness to accept the story. The story doesn't have to conform to real world physics or logic, necessarily, but it does have to play by the rules it sets for itself (which are often referred to as 'internal logic').
- Word of God: Any statement made by the authors to clarify confusing or controversial parts in a series. The name is because their statements are taken as final and absolute.
- World War II: The historical event which shaped the modern world more than almost anything else.
- Writer on Board: When the writer hijacks the story's previously-established plot and characterizations in order to make a political or moral statement.
- Xanatos Gambit: A plan designed to succeed regardless of the outcome -- there are two or more possible outcomes to a plan, and you ensure that you win no matter which one happens.
- X Meets Y: Stock show pitch -- the premise is a combination of two well-known and well-liked things, with the hope that the new thing is greater than the sum of its parts.
- Yandere: She's crazy about you. Literally.
These are the tropes which have been handed down from the ancients.
Note: All The Tropes apologizes for the lack of autoplaying music from the web page. For optimum viewing experience, play "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" (embedded to the right) while reading below.
Here is a list of the most widely-known and oft-referenced tropes we have on this entire site. If you're new to All The Tropes, this list will provide a good basis for understanding our... erm... unique vocabulary.
On the other hand, if you're a veteran Troper and you still aren't familiar with all of these entries, this list might prove to be quite informative.
Most of the individual mediums have their own special vocabularies and tropes -- see those sections for details. A few examples from each (Heel Face Turn, Mary Sue, etc.) have propagated beyond their home subcultures.
See also Trope Overdosed (for the equivalent in shows), Omnipresent Tropes, Glossary, Canonical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions, Pothole Magnet. For Tropes of Legend by sheer numerical weight, see Overdosed Tropes.
Alphabetical order, please.
Please see the discussion page before adding new entries.
- Fanon Discontinuity: When something that is canon is, for some reason - usually for being bad, out of place, or stupid - ignored by a large portion of the fandom.
- Growing the Beard: The opposite; the point where a show starts getting better.
- Jerkass Woobie: A character who, despite their obnoxious attitude, suffers and do leave you feeling bad for them because of what they get put through.
This category has the following 13 subcategories, out of 13 total.
- Applied Phlebotinum (11 C, 248 P)
- Character Development (14 P, 1 F)
- Did Not Do the Research (5 C, 204 P)
- Mood Whiplash (18 P, 1 F)
- Nightmare Fuel (2 C, 1,518 P, 21 F)
- The Oldest Ones in the Book (6 C, 11 P)
- Shout-Out (4 C, 258 P, 5 F)
- Wild Mass Guessing (22 C, 28 P)
Pages in category "Tropes of Legend"
The following 200 pages are in this category, out of 236 total.(previous page) (next page)
- Back from the Dead
- Badass Normal
- Batman Gambit
- Bellisario's Maxim
- Berserk Button
- Better Than It Sounds
- Beware the Nice Ones
- Beyond the Impossible
- Big Bad
- Big Damn Heroes
- The Big Guy
- Big No
- Bittersweet Ending
- Black Comedy
- Blatant Lies
- Body Horror
- Brainwashed and Crazy
- Break the Cutie
- Breaking the Fourth Wall
- Butt Monkey
- Damsel in Distress
- Darker and Edgier
- Dead Horse Trope
- Deadpan Snarker
- Deal with the Devil
- Department of Redundancy Department
- Designated Hero
- Designated Protagonist Syndrome
- Deus Ex Machina
- Disproportionate Retribution
- Does This Remind You of Anything?
- Downer Ending
- Draco in Leather Pants
- The Dragon
- Driven to Suicide
- Sarcasm Mode
- Saving the World
- The Scrappy
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money
- Sealed Evil in a Can
- Self-Demonstrating Article
- Serious Business
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
- The Smart Guy
- Smug Snake
- So Bad It's Good
- Stable Time Loop
- Stalker with a Crush
- Status Quo Is God
- Stealth Pun
- Story Arc