In rhetoric, antimetabole (/æntməˈtæbəl/ AN-ti-mə-TAB-ə-lee) is the repetition of words in successive clauses, but in transposed order (e.g., "I know what I like, and I like what I know"). It is identical to the modern sense of chiasmus, although the classical chiasmus did not necessarily use repetition, but only in some cases. An easier way of understanding what an antimetabole means is comparing it to the commutative property of addition and multiplication. This means that for example, a + b = b + a. In terms of applying this property to language, an example would be, dance to live, not live to dance. Also an antimetabole does not just have to be simple words switched around, they can also be clauses placed in the middle of sentences that are reversed. For example, “Some people say I am bad at mathematics because it is not my favorite subject, but in reality, mathematics is not my favorite subject because I am bad at it.” An antimetabole is also said to be a little too predictive because it is easy to reverse the key term, but it can pose questions that one usually would not think of if the phrase were just asked or said the initial way.[1]



It is derived from the Greek ἀντιμεταβολή from ἀντί (antí), "against, opposite" and μεταβολή (metabolē), "turning about, change".

See also


  1. Fahnestock, Jeanne. Rhetorical Figures in Science. Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 123-134.
  2. "The Court Jester". American Film Institute. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  3. Truss, Lynne (24 October 2005). Eats Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (Paperback ed.). Profile Books. p. 20. ISBN 978-1861976772.

External links

Look up antimetabole in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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