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These are the tropes which have been handed down from the ancients.
These are the tropes our forefathers gave their lives to defend.
These are the tropes we use and take for granted every day, oblivious to their true significance.
These... are the Tropes of Legend!

Note: TV Tropes is currently unable to play music from the web page. For optimum viewing experience, hum "Thus Spake Zarathustra" while reading below.Alternatively 

Here is a list of the most widely-known and oft-referenced tropes we have on this entire site. If you’re new to TV 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, TV Tropes Glossary, Canonical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions, Pothole Magnet. For Tropes Of Legend by sheer numerical weight, see Overdosed Tropes.

  1. The Leader
  2. The Lancer
  3. The Big Guy
  4. The Smart Guy
  5. The Chick
  • Flanderization: Simplifying formerly complex characters by magnifying one of their character traits and making it their sole defining characteristic.
  • Foil: A character who highlights another character's trait(s), usually by contrast.
  • The Fourth Wall: The metaphorical wall between the characters and the audience. Most fictional characters have no idea that they're in a story.
    • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Exceptions to the above. Scenes where characters demonstrate they are aware of the audience and the fact that they're in a story.
    • No Fourth Wall: Series and characters for which breaking the fourth wall is the rule, not the exception.
  • 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: Characters 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: A character makes mistakes that indicate they have never seen anything related to the genre they're in, and they never learn from their experience; e.g., "characters splitting up while exploring a haunted house" is one of the most recognized uses of the trope out there, indicating Horror Movie Genre Blindness.
    • 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 oneself to be a god or universal ruler.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Heroes who are rude and unpleasant despite their noble and benevolent intentions.
  • Gorn: Gratuitous and graphic violence that can be described as "gore porn".
  • 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.
  • Heroic BSoD: Some horrible event shocks the hero and makes him incapable of anything for a while.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A character makes a great sacrifice to save others.
  • The Hero: The main character who is the hero of the story or other media, resolving to defeat the Big Bad.
  • The Hero's Journey: The standard story formula.
  • 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 Romance Subtext: Same thing, but between foes (not necessarily of the same gender)
    • Les Yay: Ho Yay which is specifically between two female characters
  • Humongous Mecha: Giant humanoid robots, usually from anime or 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.
    • Idiot Plot: A plot that only functions by all of the characters acting like idiots.
    • What an Idiot!: Similar to the Idiot Ball, this is when a character deviates from what most would describe as simple common sense.
  • Jerkass: A character who is offensively obnoxious.
  • Just in Time: Salvation that arrives just in time to create a 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 character who gets off scot-free despite committing immoral actions (usually a villain; heroic examples are often YMMV)
  • 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.
    • Pet the Dog: A kind act reveals that an outwardly mean character is tender and caring inside.
    • Shoot the Dog: A morally gray deed caused by a character against his own wishes just because it needs to be done for the sake of everyone else.
    • Moral Event Horizon: A deed so cruel, evil, and despicable that it irrevocably damns the character in the eyes of the audience.
  • Kill 'em All: Just about every character dies, main cast or not.
  • 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.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: 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; e.g., "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. Trying to throw in cuter, happier, and often funnier 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.
  • Magnificent Bastard: That one character that can manipulate about everyone else to reach his goal and get away with it. It usually is, well, a bastard, and we still love it.
  • 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: A sudden change in the mood of a work.
  • 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: Trying to turn mundane scenes into great events using special effects or other stylistic means of direction. (Formerly known as "What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?")
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: In fiction, evil people have evil names.
  • Nice Hat: Impressive headgear.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: It went From Bad to 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, very difficult.
    • That One Boss: A video game boss who is considerably more difficult or frustrating than the rest of the game's bosses.
    • That One Level: A video game level that is more difficult or frustrating than the rest of the game's levels.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: A character acts clueless to make others underestimate them.
  • Obviously Evil: A villain whose appearance makes no attempt to hide their evilness.
  • 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.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: A villain bent on destroying all that exists.
  • 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 weirdness 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.
  • Pun: Wordplay involving similar-sounding words. Tends to be done as lamely as possible for maximum groan inducement. Commonly used by a Mr. Report Siht in means both cruel and unusual.
    • Stealth Pun: A pun whose punchline is implied, but not stated outright.
    • Visual Pun: Similarly, a sight gag that hides a pun in it.
  • 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 ignore the rules because he can afford to pay away any consequences.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: A villain or evil force is locked away to prevent their escape. Usually breaks free.
  • Sequel Hook: An ending or dangling plot thread that just asks for a follow-up.
  • Sequelitis: The unfortunately common occurrence that a sequel fails to live up to its predecessor.
  • Serious Business: A frivolous or commonplace activity that the characters take more seriously than they should, and which forms the premise of the show. Sometimes extended to everyone in the fictional world.
  • Shout-Out: An affectionate reference or 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? The Power of Friendship, or a bullet between the eyes?"
  • Smug Snake: A character who wants to be a Magnificent Bastard but lacks magnificence.
  • Stable Time Loop: When an event caused by a time traveller is integral or responsible for the time travel in the first place. Most commonly, a time traveller goes back in time to try and 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.
  • 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 that the author dislikes.
  • Techno Babble: A complex or intelligent-sounding explanations that's meant to convey the appearance of technical depth to the story universe, but that 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: A character who puts life and limb at risk by doing things that any sane human being would know better than to do.
  • Token: A character included in a work in order to check off a demographic box.
  • Took a Level in Badass: A 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 occasionally on TV 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. As in, "on a scale of 1 to 10."
  • 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, usually with the implication that it would have been better had they included them.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: A hero is called on his morally ambiguous or directly evil actions by characters in the story.
  • Wham Line: A phrase that, once delivered, hits the audience like a heavy blow, usually leading to major plot changes.
    • Wham Episode: An episode where things take a shocking turn.
  • 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 (usually) taken as final and absolute.
  • 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: This person's crazy about you. Often literally.


Purely subjective tropes, or entries that concern the wiki itself.

  • Darth Wiki: The wiki's Evil Twin. As indicated by its white-on-black appearance, Darth Wiki is the home of venting, complaining, and tongue-in-cheek criticism that would be out of place in the actual wiki.
  • Sugar Wiki: Likewise, a section for mindless gushing and fandom, which is also not acceptable in the real wiki.
  • Accidental Nightmare Fuel: Things in media that scare people even though they were never meant to.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: A different way of looking at a character's actions which results in a distinctly different impression of their nature. When taken to extremes, or when very little information is available about a character, this can become Wild Mass Guessing.
  • Anvilicious: An Aesop so lacking in subtlety it's like being hit over the head with an anvil.
  • Ass Pull: When a story element is introduced with no buildup—it's basically pulled out the writer's ass.
  • Base-Breaking Character: A character with very polarizing fan reception.
  • Bellisario's Maxim: "We could fill in all the plot holes, but that would take too much time."
  • Broken Base: When a work's fandom cannot agree on certain things about it.
  • Canon Discontinuity: When something is declared null and void by the authors themselves.
    • 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.
  • Complaining About Shows You Don't Like: This is a big no-no here. Not that you can't voice your grievances about shows you don't like, but don't suggest a trope solely for this purpose—we already have a few designated places for that.
  • Complete Monster: A horrifically evil and cruel villain, a villain completely beyond redemption, worthy only of a truly deserving Karmic Death, a Fate Worse than Death, a supreme asskicking, or a very thorough Humiliation Conga.
  • Creator's Pet: When The Scrappy is a favorite character of the writers. (Formerly known as "The Wesley".)
  • Crazy Awesome: A character whose craziness is the source of his awesomeness.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Stops being offensive and starts being funny.
  • Designated Hero: A character whom the story plays off as being good and heroic, but who comes off as not, usually for being either a Jerkass or the cause of what ruins the story most of the time.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: The tendency of fandom to fetishize a certain character (usually a villain or Anti-Hero), and play up said character's attractiveness over his or her personality flaws.
  • Ear Worm: A song that just sticks in your mind.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: A character who unexpectedly becomes popular within the fandom.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: The idea that symbolism exists everywhere, even in places where it doesn't.
  • Fridge Logic: Errors of logic or plotting which do not detract from enjoyment of the story; indeed, they're only realized in retrospect, as the viewer is walking back to the fridge after the show.
  • Gambit Roulette: A plan that relies upon improbable coincidences and things the planner could not possibly know, but works anyway.
  • Game-Breaker: A controversial element of gameplay that unexpectedly trumps all others.
  • Headscratchers: The place in the wiki to go if you want to discuss plot elements that make no sense to you.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Later events make something funny, or even funnier.
    • Harsher in Hindsight: A tragic event makes a serious story more difficult to digest.
    • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: A tragic event makes a funny story hard to laugh at.
    • Too Soon: A work is either temporarily or permanently pulled due to similarities to real-world tragedies.
  • Jumping the Shark: A specific event or point in time at which an ongoing work begins to decline in quality or creativity.
  • Justifying Edit: An attempt by a wiki editor to justify the use of a trope.
  • Love It or Hate It: In-Universe, when a work is incredibly divisive and very few people find it average.
  • Made of Win: The in-wiki equivalent of Moment of Awesome, where a contribution is really funny or otherwise very, very good.
  • Mary Sue: When a character gets too much favor from the author in a way that breaks Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Has suffered considerable Trope Decay due to both subjectiveness and its pejorative status.
  • MST3K Mantra: "It's just a show; I should really just relax." A warning not to get too invested or emotionally involved in a work of fiction. It's not the end of the world; don't take things so seriously. Just roll with things and enjoy it.
  • Narm: A moment that is supposed to be serious, but becomes unintentionally funny.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Really scary stuff, meant to scare everyone.
  • The Scrappy: A character that is out-and-out hated by the fandom.
  • Self-Demonstrating Article: An article in which the trope listed applies to the article itself
  • So Bad, It's Good: Can mean two things. 1) A work which was intentionally poorly made, in order to be humorous. 2) A work that was created to be good, but garners a fanbase due to how ridiculous it is.
  • Squick: Something that makes you feel disgusted or nauseated.
  • Tear Jerker: A moment in a work sad enough to lead most viewers into crying.
  • Trope Codifier: The example that everybody else is copying, or at least copying a copy of.
  • Trope Maker: The work that invents the trope.
  • Trope Namers: The example that gives a trope its name on the wiki (sometimes due to pop culture, sometimes due to being a Trope Codifier).
  • Unfortunate Implications: Potentially offensive message, often just accidental.
  • Ur-Example: Widely held to be the very first example of a trope.
  • Wangst: Excessive angst, or angst done wrong.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: The Contributors create bizarre theories.
  • The Woobie: A character who suffers, and the audience goes "awww".
    • Jerkass Woobie: A character who suffers and, despite their obnoxious attitude, leaves you feeling bad for them because of what they get put through.