Non sequitur (literary device)

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A non sequitur (English: /ˌnɒnˈsɛkwɪtər/; Classical Latin: [noːn ˈsɛkᶣɪtʊr] "it does not follow") is a conversational and literary device, often used for comedic purposes. It is something said that, because of its apparent lack of meaning relative to what preceded it,[1] seems absurd to the point of being humorous or confusing.

This use of the term is distinct from the non sequitur in logic, where it is a fallacy.


Literally, the expression is Latin for "it does not follow."[2] It comes from the words "non" meaning not, and the deponent verb sequor, sequi, secutus sum meaning 'to follow'. Deponent verbs have passive forms but active meanings.[3]


A non sequitur can denote an abrupt, illogical, or unexpected turn in plot or dialogue by including a relatively inappropriate change in manner. A non sequitur joke sincerely has no explanation, but it reflects the idiosyncrasies, mental frames and alternative world of the particular comic persona.[4]

The non sequitur can be understood as the converse of cliché.Traditional comedy and drama can depend on the ritualization and predictability of human emotional experiences, where the Theatre of the Absurd uses disjunction and unpredictability. The use of a non sequitur in humor can either be deliberate or unintentional, depending on the context the literary device is placed in.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. Oxford University Press, 2009.
  2. ^ Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary.
  3. ^ The Latin Library "Deponent Verbs"
  4. ^ Chambers, Robert (2010). Parody: The Art that Plays with Art. Peter Lang Publishers. p. 75. ISBN 978-1433108693. Retrieved 2014-09-17. Along with a rhythmic pattern, these jokes, however absurd they may be, build dual frames of reference, if not alternative worlds entirely reflecting the idiosyncrasies of the individual stand-up artist. 

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