If I mention a skyscraper as a tall skyscraper, it is obvious that tall is not providing any extra value. I am wondering what is the word describing this type of unnecessary adjectives or more generally unnecessary definition?

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    It's generally referred to as redundancy. The word tall is redundant or pleonastic.
    – Lambie
    Jun 27, 2021 at 15:43
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    That's called circular definition.
    – Void
    Jun 27, 2021 at 15:47
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    @Lambie: 'Redundancy' is a completely different thing. For example, the 'round' in 'a round circle' is redundant.
    – Void
    Jun 27, 2021 at 15:50
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    @Void First, you can't have a circular definition with an adjective and noun. You need a verb. Secondly, this is called redundancy: writingcooperative.com/… The word tall is redundant. Let's not confuse writing and logic. Wikipedia: In linguistics, redundancy refers to information that is expressed more than once.[
    – Lambie
    Jun 27, 2021 at 15:52

2 Answers 2


The noun phrase 'a tall skyscraper" could mean "a building that is even taller than many buildings labeled skyscrapers" just as "a tall basketball player" could mean a person taller than the average of that already tall group.

If such a relative comparison is not intended, if the writer merely means to emphasize that this skyscraper is tall, as all skyscrapers must be then it is a redundancy, since "skyscraper" means "a particularly tall building". Sometimes a redundancy can be good style, as a form of emphasis, but most often it is not.

This is not a circular definition, because it is not a definition at all, but a circular definition is generally redundant.

I would not call this a tautology, although it might technically be one. I use "tautology" for a self-evident statement that says the same thing in two different ways, or has two alternatives which are opposites, so one must be true, such as:

  • All those who do not go will stay
  • That which is not true is false.
  • My name is John, or else it isn't.

Mostly I use and see "tautology" in formal logic, or where things are being analyzed in a manner similar to that used in formal logic.

  • A tautology requires a verb, in my humble opinion.
    – Lambie
    Jun 28, 2021 at 13:52
  • All my examples of tautologies in the answer and such classics as "A equals A" have verbs. Jul 2, 2021 at 22:32
  • "a tall skyscraper" does not contain a verb, I think was Lambie's point
    – gotube
    Jul 2, 2021 at 22:33
  • @gotube Yes and i said I would not call it a tautology, attempting to refute or at least counter another answer that described it as one. Jul 2, 2021 at 22:35

It is called a tautology:

the saying of the same thing twice over in different words, generally considered to be a fault of style
They arrived one after the other in succession.


Tautology can sound serious but be hilarious sometimes:

  • to over-exaggerate
  • frozen ice
  • The evening sunset

Some consider a tautology expressions like working mum (I find it so amusing!).

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