What Is Antistasis?

Business mans hands making a gesture
'I don't think we should go through with this deal, Bill. Is it altogether fair to the railroad company?' 'Aw, forget it! Business is business, after all.'. Bloom Productions / Getty Images

Antistasis is a rhetorical term for the repetition of a word or phrase in a different or contrary sense. Adjective: antistatic. Also known as antanadasis.

In The Garden of Eloquence (1593), Henry Peacham calls antistasis diaphora, noting that the repeated word should be "a word of importance, that may contain in it an effectual signification, and not every common word, for that were absurd."

Etymology: From the Greek, "opposition"

Examples and Observations

  • "In the stories we tell ourselves, we tell ourselves."
    (Michael Martone, The Flatness and Other Landscapes. University of Georgia Press, 2000)
  • "He that composes himself is wiser than he that composes a book."
    (Benjamin Franklin)
  • "Why do so many people who can't write plays write plays?"
    (James Thurber, letter to Richard Maney. Selected Letters of James Thurber, ed. by Helen Thurber and Edward Weeks. Little, Brown, 1981)
  • "When you get it, you get it."
    (advertising slogan for Subaru cars)
  • Kent: This is nothing, Fool.
    Fool: Then tis like the breath of an unfee'd lawyer--you gave me nothing for't. Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?
    Lear: Why, no, boy. Nothing can be made out of nothing.
    (William Shakespeare, King Lear)
  • "Sorry, Charlie. StarKist wants tuna that tastes good, not tuna with good taste."
    (Starkist Tuna television commercial)
  • When you're finished changing, you're finished.

Will Shakespeare's Use of Antistasis

  • "Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
    And Will to boot, and Will in overplus;
    More than enough am I that vex thee still,
    To thy sweet will making addition thus.
    Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
    Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
    Shall will in others seem right gracious,
    And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
    The sea all water, yet receives rain still
    And in abundance addeth to his store;
    So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
    One will of mine, to make thy large Will more.
    Let no unkind no fair beseechers kill;
    Think all but one, and me in that one Will."
    (William Shakespeare, Sonnet 135)

Denotations and Connotations

  • "[P]ractically all statements in ordinary conversation, debate, and public controversy taking the form 'Republicans are Republicans,' 'Business is business,' 'Boys will be boys,' 'Woman drivers are woman drivers,' and so on, are not true. Let us put one of these blanket statements back into a context in life.
    'I don't think we should go through with this deal, Bill. Is it altogether fair to the railroad company?'
    'Aw, forget it! Business is business, after all.'
    Such an assertion, although it looks like a 'simple statement of fact,' is not simple and is not a statement of fact. The first 'business' denotes the transaction under discussion; the second 'business' invokes the connotations of the word. The sentence is a directive, saying, 'Let us treat this transaction with complete disregard for considerations other than profit, as the word 'business' suggests."
    (S. I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action. Harcourt, 1972)

Pronunciation: an-TIS-ta-sis

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "What Is Antistasis?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-antistasis-rhetoric-1689107. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). What Is Antistasis? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-antistasis-rhetoric-1689107 Nordquist, Richard. "What Is Antistasis?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-antistasis-rhetoric-1689107 (accessed June 1, 2023).