Definition of Anadiplosis

Anadiplosis is a form of repetition in which the last word of one clause or sentence is repeated as the first word of the following clause or sentence. Note that this means that every example of antimetabole contains an example of anadiplosis. Antimetabole refers to a set of sentences or clauses which repeat two words or phrases, but in reverse order such as “work to live, don’t live to work.” However, not every example of anadiplosis is also an example of antimetabole, such as in “What I want is freedom. Freedom to live.” Only the final word of a sentence of clause must be repeated to qualify as anadiplosis.

The word anadiplosis comes from the Greek for “a doubling” or “folding up.” The definition of anadiplosis thus comes from this sense of repeating or doubling a term to make it more significant.

Common Examples of Anadiplosis

Anadiplosis is a very effective rhetorical device, and thus can be commonly found in political speeches and movies. Here are some examples of anadiplosis from popular movies:

  • “They call for you: The general who became a slave; the slave who became a gladiator; the gladiator who defied an Emperor. Striking story.” —Commodus, Gladiator (2000 film)
  • “Strength through purity, purity through faith.” —Chancellor Adam Susan, V for Vendetta
  • “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” —Yoda, Star Wars

There are also plentiful examples of anadiplosis in famous speeches, such as in the following:

  • “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”—Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech
  • “Tonight, we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution.”—George Bush, 2001
  • “Don’t you surrender! Suffering breeds charactercharacter breeds faith; in the end faith will not disappoint. You must not surrender….”—Jesse Jackson, 1988 Democratic National Convention
  • “Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought patternyou change your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behavior pattern and then you go on into some action.”—Malcolm X

There are also a few folk songs and lullabies in popular culture that create a story based on anadiplosis examples. Here are excerpted lyrics from two examples:

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.

If that mockingbird don’t sing,
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

If that diamond ring turns brass,
Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass.

–Hush, Little Baby (Traditional lullaby)

Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it.

With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, with what?

With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, with a straw.

The straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza,

–There’s a Hole in the Bucket

Significance of Anadiplosis in Literature

Anadiplosis is an especially effective variety of repetition. Due to the changing position of the key word from the last part of one sentence to the first part of the following sentence, there is a shift in emphasis and thus the role of that key word changes from one usage to the next. Anadiplosis can be a good way to show a chain of events from one term to the next, such as can be seen in the above quotes from the movies Star Wars and Gladiator. Authors may also use anadiplosis examples to use a term and then specify its multiple meanings, or clarify the one key meaning.

Examples of Anadiplosis in Literature

Example #1

KING RICHARD II: The love of wicked men converts to fear;
That fear to hate, and hate turns one or both
To worthy danger and deserved death.

(Richard II by William Shakespeare)

This is an example of anadiplosis from William Shakespeare’s historical play Richard II. King Richard II, in this excerpt, explains how fear leads to hate, which leads to danger and death. This is one of the anadiplosis examples in which Shakespeare shows the development from one term to another through a chain of events.

Example #2

The mountains look on Marathon—
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream’d that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians’ grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.

(“The Isles of Greece” by Lord Byron)

This example of anadiplosis comes from Lord Byron’s poem, “The Isles of Greece.” In this excerpt, Lord Byron writes the line, “The mountains look on Marathon— / And Marathon looks on the sea.” This is a nice way in which Lord Byron triangulates the location of Marathon between the mountains and the sea by way of repetition.

Example #3

I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

(“An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” by W. B. Yeats)

In his poem, W. B. Yeats imagines an Irish airman who is anticipating the very likely possibility that he will die in battle. The Irish airman explains that he is not fighting to protect the people he’s fighting for, nor does he hate the people he’s fighting. Yet, if he does not fight his years will seem a “waste of breath.” In this somber use of anadiplosis, Yeats writes that everything before and everything after this battle will not matter as much as the battle itself.

Example #4

Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity,
When I give I give myself.

(“Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman)

Walt Whitman uses many different examples of repetition in his masterpiece, “Song of Myself.” In this short excerpt, Whitman contrasts what he does not give, i.e., “lectures or a little charity” with what he does give, i.e., himself. This anadiplosis example shows the narrator’s true character.

Example #5

What I present here is what I remember of the letter, and what I remember of the letter I remember verbatim (including that awful French). It was at least twice longer.

(Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)

This is one of the few examples of anadiplosis in prose. Due to the fact that it’s such a poetic technique, and relatively unnatural in regular speech, anadiplosis is easier to find in poetry and rhetoric. However, Nabokov uses it here effectively to illustrate Humbert Humbert’s inner life, a character with a very poetic and intellectual mind.

Test Your Knowledge of Anadiplosis

1. Which of the following statements is the best anadiplosis definition?
A. Repetition of the same word at the end of successive clauses.
B. Repetition of the same word at the beginning of successive clauses.
C. Repetition of the same word at the end of one clause and the beginning of the next clause.
[spoiler title=”Answer to Question #1″]
Answer: C is the correct answer.[/spoiler]

2. Which of the following lines is an example both of anadiplosis and antimetabole?
A. Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
B. I know what I like and I like what I know.
C. All I desire is before me; before me lies the future.
[spoiler title=”Answer to Question #2″]
Answer: B is the correct answer. A is neither an example of anadiplosis nor of antimetabole (it is, in fact, an example of zeugma), while C is an example only of anadiplosis.[/spoiler]

3. Which of the following quotes from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet does not contain an example of anadiplosis?


ROMEO: But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid since she is envious.


JULIET: O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name.
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.


JULIET: Where I have learned me to repent the sin
Of disobedient opposition
To you and your behests, and am enjoined
By holy Lawrence to fall prostrate here
To beg your pardon. (falls to her knees)
Pardon, I beseech you!
Henceforward I am ever ruled by you.

[spoiler title=”Answer to Question #3″]
Answer: B is the correct answer. In A we see the repetition of the word “sun” in close proximity, while in C the word “pardon” is repeated twice in succession.[/spoiler]