sticho·​myth·​ia | \ ˌsti-kə-ˈmi-thē-ə How to pronounce stichomythia (audio) \
variants: or less commonly stichomythy \ sti-​ˈkä-​mə-​thē How to pronounce stichomythy (audio) \

Definition of stichomythia

: dialogue especially of altercation or dispute delivered by two actors in alternating lines (as in classical Greek drama)

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Other Words from stichomythia

stichomythic \ ˌsti-​kə-​ˈmi-​thik How to pronounce stichomythic (audio) \ adjective

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In stichomythia terse, contentious, and often biting lines are bandied back and forth. Characters engaged in stichomythia may alternately voice antithetical positions, or they may play on one another's words, each repartee twisting or punning on words just spoken to make a new point. Classical Greek dramatists, such as Aeschylus and Sophocles (who wrote Agamemnon and Oedipus the King, respectively), used this device in some of their dialogues. Shakespeare also used it in exchanges in his plays. For instance, in the Closet scene in Hamlet (Act III, scene iv), the Queen tells Hamlet "Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue" to which Hamlet retorts "Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue." Not to be idle with the origin of "stichomythia": the word is from Greek stichos (meaning "row," "line," or "verse") and "mythos" ("speech" or "myth").

First Known Use of stichomythia

1861, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for stichomythia

Greek stichomythia, from stichomythein to speak dialogue in alternate lines, from stichos row, verse + mythos speech, myth; akin to Greek steichein to walk, go — more at stair

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The first known use of stichomythia was in 1861

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Cite this Entry

“Stichomythia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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