Isocolon is a figure of speech in which a sentence is composed of two or more parts (cola) perfectly equivalent in structure, length and rhythm: it is called bicolon, tricolon, or tetracolon depending on whether they are two, three, or four. A well-known example of tricolon is Julius Caesar's "Veni, vidi, vici" ("I came; I saw; I conquered").
An example of bicolon is the advertising slogan "buy one, get one free" (you pay for one item but you get another free).
In Biblical poetry it is standard to see a pair of adjacent lines of poetry in which the second echoes the meaning of the first. This can be considered a bicolon.[need quotation to verify] For example:
- When Israel went out of Egypt, * the house of Jacob from a barbarous people:
- Judea made his sanctuary, * Israel his dominion.
- The sea saw and fled: * Jordan was turned back.
- The mountains skipped like rams, * and the hills like the lambs of the flock.
- What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou didst flee: * and thou, O Jordan, that thou wast turned back?
- Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams, * and ye hills, like lambs of the flock?
- At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved, * at the presence of the God of Jacob:
- Who turned the rock into pools of water, * and the stony hill into fountains of waters.
- Veni, vidi, vici
- — (Julius Caesar)
- "I came; I saw; I conquered."
- Nec tē noster amor nec tē data dextera quondam
- nec moritūra tenet crūdēlī fūnere Dīdō?
- "Does our love not hold you, nor does my right hand having been given hold you, nor does Dido about to die with a cruel death hold you?"
- ...or the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.
Similarly, tricolon that comprises parts that decrease in size, magnitude, intensity, or word length is called a tricolon diminuens, or a descending tricolon.
Abraham Lincoln used tricola in many of his speeches. His Gettysburg Address has the following phrase: "We cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow..." Lincoln wrote in his second inaugural address, "with malice toward none, with charity toward all, with firmness in the right...", which became the most famous expression in the speech. Winston Churchill also used the device frequently, perhaps most famously in August 1940 when referring to the Battle of Britain with the line "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." In this instance, a frequent literary device of making the third colon stand apart in meaning from the other two for emphasis is employed (much/many/few).
Repeating the same thing multiple times is a special case of an isocolon, as a way of saying that only one thing is important, and it is very important. In about 1500, when Louis XII asked Giangiacopo Trivulzio what was necessary to win the war against Ludovico Sforza, Trivulzio answered: "Three things, Sire, Money, money, money!" In the 20th century, the cliché "Location, location, location" was said to enumerate the three most important attributes of real property. This phrase appears in print in Chicago as early as 1926, but is nonetheless frequently credited, incorrectly, to the British real estate magnate Lord Harold Samuel. British Prime Minister Tony Blair set out his priorities for office in 1997 with "Education, Education, Education".
Era calcina grossa, e poi era terra cotta, e poi pareva bronzo, e ora è cosa viva.
A bicolon that is both short and so well-known that it becomes a fixed expression is a special type of collocation known as a Siamese twin. Not all linguistic Siamese twins are bicolons or tricolons, however. Siamese twins generally consist of only a few words at most.
Examples of Siamese twins that are bicolons or tricolons:
- smoke and mirrors
- alive and kicking
- cloak and dagger
- command and control
- each and every
- part and parcel'
- lie, cheat, or steal
- name it and claim it
- rank and file
- signed, sealed, and delivered
- finders, keepers; losers, weepers
- carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe vitam
- in vino veritas, in aqua sanitas
- brain and brawn
- meat and potatoes
- divide and conquer
- tall, dark and handsome
- pins and needles
- brains and beauty
- might and magic
- rock and roll
Examples of Siamese twins that are not bicolons or tricolons:
- lost and found
- between the devil and the deep blue sea
- between a rock and a hard place
- double trouble (a verb and noun)
- high crimes and misdemeanors
- over and done with
- Skull and crossbones
- sugar and spice and everything nice
- Dizionario di retorica e stilistica, UTET, Toino, 2004. ISBN 9788877508850
- cf. "Bicola, Tricola, Paired Tricola, and Isaiah Variants in 2 Nephi 12 of the Book of Mormon: Authentic Hebrew Poetry?" at 
- Tremper Longman, Peter Enns, Dictionary of the Old Testament: wisdom, poetry & writings 3, p. 520
- Latina ad Vitam: Poetry Device of the Day: Tricolon Crescens
- John Aikin, William Johnston, General Biography, 1814, p. 477
- On Language: Location, Location, Location Safire, William; 26 June 2009.
- Brodie, Sophie (14 November 2007). "It's location, location, location for Land Secs". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
- William Safire, "On Language", New York Times Magazine, June 26, 2009 [full text http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/28/magazine/28FOB-onlanguage-t.html]