Epizeuxis vs. Antanaclasis—a Simple Guide
  • 4-minute read
  • 3rd July 2022

Epizeuxis vs. Antanaclasis—a Simple Guide

Epizeuxis and antanaclasis are devices that writers use to make their words more impactful. While they both involve the repetition of words or phrases, epizeuxis and antanaclasis aren’t the same thing. In this post, we explain the difference between them and give some examples of writers who have used these literary devices effectively.

What Is Epizeuxis?

Writers employ epizeuxis when they repeat a word or phrase without any other words in between. It derives from the Greek word epizeugnum, which means to join together. (One way to remember its meaning is that epizeuxis contains the word zip in reverse!)

Repetition makes writing more forceful and memorable. And because epizeuxis is the simplest form of repetition, it can be the most powerful. Epizeuxis is used to increase intensity in dialogue, add weight and urgency to speeches, and accentuate the feelings invoked by poetry and prose.

Examples of Epizeuxis

  • In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood uses epizeuxis to emphasize Offred’s determination to survive:

I am, I am. I am, still.

  • A commencement address given by Jim Carrey in 2014 included these life-affirming words about the body and soul:

One unified field. One unified field of nothing dancing for no particular reason, except maybe to comfort and entertain itself.

  • Flash fiction writer Helen Rye uses epizeuxis in the closing lines of her prizewinning story One in Twenty-Three. By repeating these words, she infers the belief that utter desolation can never extinguish inner beauty:

All the colour that could in another life have become bright petals is wrapped in darkness, away from the world. But it is in there.
It is in there.

  • There are many examples of epizeuxis in the works of Shakespeare. Perhaps the most famous is these words spoken by Macbeth after he finds out his wife is dead:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

What Is Antanaclasis?

When using antanaclasis, the repeated words or phrases are not necessarily joined together as they are with epizeuxis. Antanaclasis occurs when words are repeated within a sentence or paragraph, and each instance of the repeated words has a different meaning. In this way, antanaclasis is a form of pun, playing on different meanings of the same word. Its name also comes from a Greek word, antanáklasis, which means reflection.

Antanaclasis is often used in poetry, song lyrics, and advertising.

Examples of Antanaclasis

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  • Amanda Gorman used this device in her poem The Hill We Climb, which she read at President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony in 2021:

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.

Here, Gorman poignantly contrasts arms for destroying with arms for embracing.

  • Billy Ocean borrowed the words of a proverb in his 1985 song When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going. This plays on the two meanings of going: the first refers to the trials of life, and the second to action. Ocean used the device again in his 1993 hit Rose, which includes the line “Oh Rose, you’re my rose.”

  • Another song that uses antanaclasis is Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Reason. In this line, call me first means “address me as,” and second, it means“get in touch with me”:

You can call me baby; you can call me anytime.

  • Even heavy metal bands like to use literary devices! This line of the AC/DC song Back in Black uses the word back to mean both “returned” and “rear”:

Back in the back
Of a Cadillac

  • An advertising campaign for Overseas National Airways used the following caption:

We make the traveler’s lot a lot easier.

Summary: The Difference Between Epizeuxis and Antanaclasis

Epizeuxis and antanaclasis are both literary devices that involve the repetition of a word or phrase. In epizeuxis, words are repeated in immediate succession, focusing the reader’s attention on the meaning of the recurring words.

Antanaclasis, on the other hand, is a form of word play in which a word or phrase is repeated, but each use has a different meaning. The repeated words in antanaclasis are not necessarily adjacent to one another.

We hope we’ve inspired you to experiment with antanaclasis or epizeuxis in your next piece of writing. And never, never, never forget the importance of proofreading! Send your work to us, and we’ll return it, error-free, within 24 hours. Find out more today with a free trial.

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