Definition of peripeteia
: a sudden or unexpected reversal of circumstances or situation especially in a literary work
peripeteia was our Word of the Day on 11/10/2007. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
Peripeteia comes from Greek, in which the verb peripiptein means "to fall around or "to change suddenly." It usually indicates a turning point in a drama after which the plot moves steadily to its denouement. In his Poetics, Aristotle describes peripeteia as the shift of the tragic protagonist's fortune from good to bad-a shift that is essential to the plot of a tragedy. The term is also occasionally used of a similar change in actual affairs. For example, in a June 7, 2006 article in The New York Times, Michael Cooper described William Weld's second term as Massachusetts' governor as "political peripeteia": it "began with a landslide victory and ended with frustrated hopes and his resignation."
Origin and Etymology of peripeteia
Greek, from peripiptein to fall around, change suddenly, from peri- + piptein to fall — more at feather
First Known Use: 1591
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