apostrophe, figure of speech in which an absent person, a personified inanimate being, or an abstraction is addressed as though present. The term is derived from a Greek word meaning "a turning away," and this sense is maintained when a narrative or dramatic thread is broken in order to digress by speaking directly to someone not there, e.g., "Envy, be silent and attend!"—Alexander Pope, "On a Certain Lady at Court."
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.