Anadiplosis: Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

British Conservative Party politician and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher (1925 - 2013) giving a speech.
British Conservative Party politician and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher (1925 - 2013) giving a speech.

Photo by Hilaria McCarthy/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

 

Anadiplosis is a rhetorical and literary device wherein a word or phrase at or near the end of a clause is repeated at or near the beginning of the next clause. The word anadiplosis is of Greek origin, and means ‛doubling’ or ‛repetition.’ The device is commonly used for emphasis through the repetition of a key word or phrase, or to link a common theme through several separate clauses—often more than two. It’s also useful as a rhythmic device, breaking up what would otherwise be straightforward clauses and giving them an extra pause. This often results in a sentence that is more interesting to read or hear.

Anadiplosis vs. Chiasmus vs. Antimetabole

Anadiplosis is closely related to two other literary devices: Chiasmus and Antimetabole. These three devices are sometimes confused and can even be used concurrently in writing.

Chiasmus is defined as a reversal of structure in a following clause, or a mirroring of a concept, and is often used to rebut or argue against a point by reversing it. A very famous example of chiasmus is President Kennedy saying “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Very often, chiasmus does not repeat words in the second phrase, but merely reverses the structure.

When words are repeated, chiasmus can often closely resemble anadiplosis. The lyric “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with” from the song Love the One You’re With by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is a chiasmus—but is also an example of anadiplosis due to the repetition of the word ‛love.’

Anadiplosis is also related to antimetabole, which is the use of repeated words in reverse order, as in the bible quote “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Again, because of the repeated words an example of antimetabole can also be an example of anadiplosis. The key difference is that in the latter there is no requirement that the order of several words be reversed. Anadiplosis repeats a word or phrase, chiasmus reverses a structure without necessarily repeating words, and antimetabole repeats words in reverse order.

Anadiplosis Examples

The following examples from literature and rhetoric all employ anadiplosis.

Rhetoric

“Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought pattern, you change your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behavior pattern and then you go on into some action.” — Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” April 12, 1964.

Here you can see how Malcolm X used anadiplosis to both emphasize two specific concepts—‛change your thought pattern’ and ‛change your attitude’—as well as tie the connection between changing philosophy, thought patterns, and attitudes to the ability to take action.

Movies

“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” - Yoda, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, 1999.

Similarly, this classic line from the Star Wars universe demonstrates a series of causes and effects via the emphasis provided by repetition—fear > anger > hate > suffering.

Politics

“Without a healthy economy, we can’t have a healthy society. And without a healthy society, the economy won’t stay healthy for long.” - Margaret Thatcher, October 10, 1980

Here we see an entire phrase, as opposed to a single word, repeated for emphasis. In this speech to her political party, former Prime Minister of Great Britain Margaret Thatcher skillfully links her party’s economic policies with the general health and stability of the country via anadiplosis. The repetition of the phrase ‛a healthy society’ inspires thoughts of an unhealthy society, which manipulates the audience into viewing the other concept in the line—a healthy economy—as something essential to maintain.

Poetry

“The years to come seemed waste of breath / waste of breath the years behind.” - William Butler Yeats, An Irish Airman Foresees his Death

Here the poet Yeats uses anadiplosis to compare and ultimately balance two different but related concepts—the past and the future. Yeats mentions the future—years to come—as a bleak, meaningless trial, but then devastatingly asserts that the past—the years behind—were equally meaningless. This is all accomplished through the simple repetition of the phrase ‛waste of breath.’

Poetry

Another literary example comes from Lord Byron’s 19th-century poem Don Juan, and specifically the poem-within-a-poem, The Isles of Greece. Byron examines the status of the nation of Greece in this section, considering it a ‛slave’ to the Ottoman Empire, and he uses anadiplosis here to both conjure a physical image of Marathon in Greece (mountains, city, sea) and to link Marathon and thus Greece itself to the fundamental forces of the world, rooted in ancient history.

Another literary example comes from Lord Byron’s 19th-century poem Don Juan, and specifically the poem-within-a-poem, The Isles of Greece. Byron examines the status of the nation of Greece in this section, considering it a ‛slave’ to the Ottoman Empire, and he uses anadiplosis here to both conjure a physical image of Marathon in Greece (mountains, city, sea) and to link Marathon and thus Greece itself to the fundamental forces of the world, rooted in ancient history.