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Updated Apr 10, 2023

The Power of Accismus: A Rhetorical Device That Speaks Volumes

Rhetorical Device of Accismus: Understanding Its Persuasive Power

Have you ever found yourself saying "Oh, I couldn't possibly!" when deep down you actually wanted something? Or perhaps you've witnessed someone else employing this tactic, pretending disinterest while secretly yearning for what they claim to refuse. If so, you've likely encountered a powerful rhetorical device known as "accismus." In this blog article, we will explore the concept of accismus, its various forms, and how it can be used to captivate audiences and achieve persuasive goals.

What is Accismus?

Accismus, derived from the Greek word "akkmismos," meaning "coyness" or "pretense," is a rhetorical device that involves feigning disinterest or refusal when one actually desires something. It is a form of irony used to convey a message indirectly, creating intrigue and engaging the audience's emotions. By pretending to reject or downplay something, the speaker or writer can enhance the appeal and impact of their message.

Forms and Examples of Accismus

Accismus manifests in several forms, each employing a unique strategy to captivate the audience. Let's explore some common types of accismus:

1. False Modesty

False modesty is one of the most prevalent forms of accismus. Here, the speaker portrays themselves as humble and unassuming, while subtly seeking recognition or attention. For instance, imagine a talented musician who, when complimented on their performance, responds with, "Oh, it was nothing really. I just play a few notes here and there." By downplaying their abilities, they elicit praise and admiration from the audience.

2. Feigned Reluctance

Feigned reluctance occurs when someone pretends to resist or decline an opportunity, despite secretly desiring it. It is often used to appear gracious or maintain a sense of propriety. A classic example is when a host invites a guest into their home, and the guest responds with, "I really shouldn't impose, but if you insist, I suppose I could stay for a little while." This subtle refusal enhances the host's eagerness to have the guest over, making them feel more valued.

3. Exaggerated Disinterest

In this form of accismus, individuals exaggerate their lack of interest or need for something to draw attention to its significance. For instance, when promoting a product, a marketer might say, "This incredible gadget is so unnecessary, you definitely don't need it, but imagine how much easier your life could be with it!" By emphasizing the product's apparent lack of necessity, the marketer sparks curiosity and prompts the audience to consider its potential benefits.

The Persuasive Power of Accismus

Accismus is a powerful rhetorical device that can effectively engage an audience and achieve persuasive goals. By employing this technique, speakers and writers can:

  1. Capture attention: The element of surprise created by accismus grabs the audience's attention, making them more receptive to the message.

  2. Evoke emotions: The use of irony and feigned disinterest in accismus appeals to the audience's emotions, making them more likely to empathize and connect with the message.

  3. Enhance credibility: Accismus can enhance the speaker's credibility by showcasing humility, modesty, or a lack of self-interest, making their message more trustworthy.

  4. Create intrigue: The indirect nature of accismus piques curiosity and encourages the audience to delve deeper into the message, increasing engagement and retention.


Accismus, the rhetorical device of feigned disinterest or refusal, is a powerful tool in the art of persuasion. By employing false modesty, feigned reluctance, or exaggerated disinterest, speakers and writers can capture attention, evoke emotions, enhance credibility, and create intrigue. Whether used in everyday conversation, advertising, or public speaking, accismus has the potential to captivate audiences and leave a lasting impact. So, the next time you encounter someone pretending to refuse, remember the persuasive power that lies beneath their seemingly disinterested facade.

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