What Is Epiphora?

Ephistrophe in Rethoric

Carving of the three wise monkey, Nikko, Kanto, Japan
The proverbial principle "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" is an example of epiphora.

Chris Mellor/Getty Images

Epiphora—also known as epistrophe—is a rhetorical term for the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses. Contrast with anaphora (rhetoric).

The combination of anaphora and epiphora (that is, the repetition of words or phrases at both the beginning and end of successive clauses) is called symploce.

From the Greek, "bringing to"

Examples and Observations

  • "Where now? Who now? When now?
    - Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable, 1953
  • "[T]here is only one thing about which I am certain, and this is that there is very little about which one can be certain."
    - W. Somerset Maugham, quoted by Laurence Brander in Somerset Maugham: A Guide. Oliver & Boyd, 1963
  • "Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don’t give me the same idiot.”
    - Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, speaking about FEMA Chief Michael Brown, September 6, 2005
  • "I'm a Pepper, he's a Pepper, she's a Pepper, we're a Pepper. Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too? Dr. Pepper."
    - Advertising jingle for Dr. Peppper soft drink
  • "We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night—also known asall ages, colors, creeds.
    "You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here! You're beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you.
    "You dress like the tube.
    "You eat like the tube.
    "You raise your children like the tube.
    "You even think like the tube.
    "This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God's name, you people are the real thing. We are the illusion!"
    - Peter Finch as television anchorman Howard Beale in Network, 1976
  • "Success hasn’t changed Frank Sinatra. When he was unappreciated and obscure, he was hot-tempered, egotistical, extravagant, and moody. Now that he is rich and famous, he is still hot-tempered, egotistical, extravagant, and moody."
    - Dorothy Kilgallen, 1959 newspaper column
  • "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."
    - Bill Clinton
  • "I've gotta be your damn conscience. I'm tired of being your conscience. I don't enjoy being your conscience."
    - Dr. Wilson to Dr. House in House
  • "She's safe, just like I promised. She's all set to marry Norrington, just like she promised. And you get to die for her, just like you promised."
    - Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean
  • "And now when I sway to a fitful wind, alone and listing, I will think, maple key. When I see a photograph of earth from space, the planet so startlingly painterly and hung, I will think, maple key. When I shake your hand or meet your eyes I will think, two maple keys. If I am a maple key falling, at least I can twirl."
    - Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1974

Epiphora and Parallel Structures

"Epiphora can be combined with parallelism, as in the following expression attributed to both [Abraham] Lincoln and P. T. Barnum: 'You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."
- James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric. Sage, 2001

Shakespeare's Use of Epiphora

"Then, since this earth affords no joy to me
But to command, to check, to o’erbear such
As are of better person than myself,
I’ll make my heaven to dream upon the crown;
And, whiles I live, to account this world but hell,
Until my mis-shap’d trunk that bears this head
Be round impaled with a glorious crown.
And yet I know not how to get the crown,
For many lives stand between me and home."
- Gloucester in William Shakespeare's The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth, Act 3, scene 2

"Fie, fie, thou shamest thy shape, thy love, thy wit,
Which, like a userer, abound'st in all,
And uses none in that true sense indeed
Which should bedeck thy shape, thy love, thy wit."
- Friar Laurence in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, scene 3

Polyptoton and Epiphora

"A form of epiphora . . . can be created by way of polyptoton (variations on a word). An ad for Suffolk University features the statement, 'Politics is your life. Now make it your living' ('life' and 'living' are both derived from the Old English word libban). Epiphora can be combined with parallelism, as in the following expression attributed to both Lincoln and P.T. Barnum: 'You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.'"
- James Jasinkski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric: Key Concepts in Contemporary Rhetorical Studies. Sage, 2001

Pronunciation: ep-i-FOR-ah

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "What Is Epiphora?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/epiphora-rhetoric-term-1690663. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 28). What Is Epiphora? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/epiphora-rhetoric-term-1690663 Nordquist, Richard. "What Is Epiphora?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/epiphora-rhetoric-term-1690663 (accessed April 2, 2023).