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Antiphrasis is the rhetorical device where one person says the words or phrase opposite to what message they are trying to convey. When doing so, the intended meaning is presented in an obvious fashion, so that it is evident to the listener what the speaker's true intention is.[1] Antiphrasis is commonly known as being the element in sarcasm that is interpreted to be "harsh" and "bitter". Because of the similarity within the usage, antiphrasis is occasionally classified as a synonym for sarcasm, where both rhetorical devices use the opposite of the intended meaning in its place. Antiphrases are usually ironic, however irony and antiphrasis are not always correlated.


Some euphemisms are antiphrases, such as "Eumenides", or "the gracious ones" to mean the "Erinyes", or the "deities of vengeance".


  • "Take your time, we have got all day", is said in the place of "hurry up, we don't have all day".
  • "Tell me about it" is said in the place of "don't bother, I already know".
  • "Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly" appears to be an invitation, but is in fact a threat.
  • "Great!", an exclamation uttered when something unpleasant had happened or is about to happen.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bernard Dupriez, tr. Albert W. Halsall, A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus, A-Z, ISBN 0802068030, p. 49–50