anas·​tro·​phe | \ ə-ˈna-strə-(ˌ)fē How to pronounce anastrophe (audio) \

Definition of anastrophe

: inversion of the usual syntactical order of words for rhetorical effect — compare hysteron proteron

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Powerful you have become Dooku, the dark side I sense in you. Fans of Star Wars will recognize Yoda's line in Attack of the Clones. Others might guess that Yoda is the speaker because of the unconventional syntax that is the hallmark of Yoda's speech. (In typical Yoda fashion, the subject is second instead of first in both clauses-it follows a predicate adjective and the direct object, respectively.) The name for this kind of syntactical inversion is anastrophe, from the Greek verb anastrephein, meaning "to turn back." President John F. Kennedy employed anastrophe for rhetorical effect when he inverted the typical positive-to-negative parallelism in his famous line "Ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country." In poetry, anastrophe is often used to create rhythm, as in these lines from Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky": "So rested he by the Tumtum tree, / And stood awhile in thought."

First Known Use of anastrophe

circa 1550, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for anastrophe

Medieval Latin, from Greek anastrophē, literally, turning back, from anastrephein to turn back, from ana- + strephein to turn

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The first known use of anastrophe was circa 1550

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Cite this Entry

“Anastrophe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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