hyperbaton (figure of speech)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

"Sorry I be but go you must," says Yoda hyperbatonically in Star Wars).


Hyperbaton is a figure of speech that uses disruption or inversion of customary word order to produce a distinctive effect. The term may also refer to a figure in which language takes a sudden turn—usually an interruption. Plural: hyperbata. Adjective: hyperbatonic. Also known as anastrophe, transcensio, transgressio, and tresspasser.

Hyperbaton is often used to create emphasis. Brendan McGuigan notes that hyperbaton "can tweak the normal order of a sentence to make certain parts stand out or to make the entire sentence jump off the page" (Rhetorical Devices, 2007).

The grammatical term for hyperbaton is inversion.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

From the Greek, "passed over, transposed"

Examples and Observations

  • "Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man."
    (Edgar Allan Poe, "The Tell-Tale Heart")
  • "From Cocoon forth a Butterfly
    As Lady from her Door
    Emerged—a summer afternoon—
    Repairing everywhere."
    (Emily Dickinson, "From Cocoon forth a Butterfly")
  • "Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall."
    (Escalus in William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, Act II, scene one)
  • "And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made"
    (W. B. Yeats, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree")
  • "pity this busy monster manunkind not"
    (e.e. cummings)
  • "One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day."
  • Types of Hyperbaton
    "One of the most common ways to use hyperbaton is to put an adjective after the noun it modifies, rather than before it. While this might be a normal word order in languages like French, in English it tends to give an air of mystery to a sentence: "The forest burned with a fire unquenchableunquenchable except by the helicopter that finally arrived."

    "Hyperbaton can also put the verb all the way at the end of the sentence, rather than between the subject and the object. So rather than, She wouldn't, for any reason whatsoever, be married to that smelly, foul, unlikable man," you could write, She wouldn't, for any reason whatsoever, to that smelly, foul, unlikable man be married."

    "Not the force hyperbaton carries with it."
    (Brendan McGuigan, Rhetorical Devices: A Handbook and Activities for Student Writers. Prestwick House, 2007)
  • Effects of Hyperbaton
    "Most theorists . . . have been content to return to the definition of hyperbaton as an inversion which expresses 'a violent movement of the soul' (Littre).

    "Hyperbaton may well be considered to result from inversion because it is possible to recast the sentence so as to integrate the added segment. But the effect characteristic of hyperbaton derives rather from the kind of spontaneity which imposes the addition of some truth, obvious or private, to a syntactic construction apparently already closed. Hyperbaton always consists in an adjacent assertion . . . . This appears all the more clearly when the grammatical link seems loosest, as in the case of and preceded by a comma. Ex: 'The arms of the morning are beautiful, and the sea' (Saint-Jean Perse, quoted by Daniel Delas, Poétique-pratique, p. 44)."
    (Bernard Marie Dupriez and Albert W. Halsall, A Dictionary of Literary Devices. University of Toronto Press, 1991)

  • The Lighter Side of Hyperbaton
    Maddie Hayes: Well, let me remind you Mr. Addison, that one case does not a detective make.
    David Addison: Well, let me remind you Ms. Hayes, that I hate it when you talk backwards.
    (Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis in Moonlighting, 1985)

Pronunciation: high PER ba tun

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Nordquist, Richard. "hyperbaton (figure of speech)." ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/hyperbaton-figure-of-speech-1690940. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, March 7). hyperbaton (figure of speech). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hyperbaton-figure-of-speech-1690940 Nordquist, Richard. "hyperbaton (figure of speech)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hyperbaton-figure-of-speech-1690940 (accessed January 21, 2018).