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Hyperbaton /hˈpɜːrbətɒn/ is a figure of speech that alters the syntactic order of the words in a sentence or separates normally-associated words.[1][2] The term may also be used more generally for all different figures of speech that transpose the natural word order in sentences.[2]


"Hyperbaton" is a word borrowed from the Greek hyperbaton (ὑπέρβατον), meaning "transposition," which is derived from hyper ("over") and bainein ("to step"), with the -tos verbal adjective suffix.

Classical usage[edit]

The separation of connected words for emphasis or effect is possible to a much greater degree in highly inflected languages, where sentence meaning does not depend closely on word order. In Latin and Ancient Greek, the effect of hyperbaton is usually to emphasize the first word. It has been called "perhaps the most distinctively alien feature of Latin word order."[3] Donatus, in his work On tropes, includes under hyperbaton five varieties: hysterologia, anastrophe (for which the term hyperbaton is sometimes used loosely as a synonym), parenthesis, tmesis, and synchysis.


  • ὑφ' ἑνὸς τοιαῦτα πέπονθεν ἡ Ἑλλὰς ἀνθρώπου (Demosthenes 18.158, "Greece has suffered such things at the hands of only one person": the word "(only) one", henos, occurs in its normal place after the preposition "at the hands of" [hypo], but "person" [anthrōpou] is unnaturally delayed, giving emphasis to "only one.")
  • πρός σε γονάτων (Occurs several times in Euripides, "[I entreat] you by your knees": the word "you" [se] unnaturally divides the preposition "by" from its object "knees.")


  • ab Hyrcanis Indoque a litore siluis (Lucan 8.343, "from the Hyrcanian woods and from the Indian shore": "and from the Indian shore" is inserted between "Hyrcanian" and "woods" [siluis])
  • "quam Catullus unam/ plus quam se atque suos amauit omnes" (Catullus 58a, "whom alone Catullus loved more than himself and all his own": "alone" is separated from "whom," and "all" is placed away from "his own" and after the verb, possibly to emphasize it)

English usage[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kevin Wilson; Jennifer Wauson (2010). The AMA Handbook of Business Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Style, Grammar, Usage, Punctuation, Construction, and Formatting. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-8144-1589-4. 
  2. ^ a b Stephen Cushman; Clare Cavanagh; Jahan Ramazani; Paul Rouzer (26 August 2012). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition. Princeton University Press. p. 647. ISBN 978-1-4008-4142-4. 
  3. ^ Andrew M. Devine, Laurence D. Stephens, Latin Word Order: Structured Meaning and Information (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 524 (as cited by M. Esperanza Torrego in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.09.33).
  • Smyth, Herbert Weir (1920). Greek Grammar. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. p. 679. ISBN 0-674-36250-0. 

External links[edit]