Enumeration literally means numbered-"to enumerate" means to list one by one. When used in a literary sense, enumeration is used as a rhetorical device to break a topic or argument down into component parts, or to list details of the subject one by one.
In an essay about why her school should have uniforms, a writer enumerates four different reasons, explaining each in detail.
In a speech about why the state legislature should fund teacher pay raises, the governor enumerates three different cost-effective ways that the legislature could fund the pay raises.
Examples of Enumeration from Literature and Speeches:
In this speech, Booker T. Washington enumerates the ways in which African Americans helped to build the American South, and then enumerates ways that educating African Americans will continue to benefit the South:
"Cast down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your factories."
In his "I Have a Dream" speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. enumerates the locations from which freedom will ring, and then all of the groups who will benefit and be free:
"[W]hen we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men, and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"
Literary Terms Examples