Antimetabole is a figure of speech in which the order of words in one of two parallel clauses is reversed in the other.

What Is Antimetabole

Antimetabole is a figure of speech in which the order of words in one of two parallel clauses is reversed in the other. For example, if you say “as iron sharpens iron,” then “iron” and “sharpens” have been met with metathesis.

Antimetabole can be used to emphasize or contrast two opposing ideas, as well as create a sense of symmetry.

Examples of Antimetabole In Use

  • “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno” (“One for all, all for one”)
  • “Eat to live, not live to eat.” —attributed to Socrates
  • “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” —John F. Kennedy, “Inaugural Address”, January 20, 1961.
  • “There is no ‘way to peace’. Peace is the way.” —Mahatma Gandhi
  • “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” —Mark 2:27
  • “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
  • “With my mind on my money and my money on my mind.” —Snoop Dogg in the song “Gin and Juice”
  • “In America, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, Party always finds you!” —Yakov Smirnoff
  • “The great object of [Hamlet’s] life is defeated by continually resolving to do, yet doing nothing but resolve.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  • “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. The rock was landed on us.” —Malcolm X
  • “He was just the man for such a place, and it was just the place for such a man.” —Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” —William Shakespeare, Macbeth
  • “And we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” —Joseph R. Biden, “Inaugural Address”
  • “All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity is crime” —Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • “I’m hoping that somebody pray for me, I’m praying that somebody hope for me.” —JID in the song “Enemy (Imagine Dragons and JID song).”

Antimetabole In Use

The name of this figure of speech is Greek and means “turning about”. It’s a kind of parallelism that uses repetition to emphasize a point, or to create rhythm in a sentence.

Here’s an example: “A girl who has never been married and a woman who has been married more than once are two entirely different things.”

The term antimetabole is also known by various other names such as chiasmus, chiastic structure, or antimetathesis.

Antimetabole is a rhetorical device in which the order of words or clauses is reversed. It can be used for emphasis and variety. For example: “A drowning man grips at straws” and “A drowning man’s grip on a straw may fail.”

Antimetabole adds emphasis and rhythm to a sentence. It can also be used to create a contrast between two things, or a parallelism in which the same words or ideas are repeated in different forms.

Antimetabole – Wrapping Up

Antimetabole is a figure of speech that uses repetition and contrast in order to emphasize a point. It is often used in poetry, but it can also be found in everyday speech.

If you like the sound of this figure and want to use it yourself, try making up your own antimetabole on whatever subject comes to mind!