This post is part of a series on rhetoric and rhetorical devices. For other posts in the series, please click this link.
Origin: From the Greek meaning “to turn about in the opposite direction”.
In plain English: Repetition of the same words or phrases in reverse order.
- The focus of the second clause is different from the focus in the first clause because of the reversed word order.
- The reversal of words is often unexpected and thought-provoking, getting the audience to consider things from a different angle.
- The key message is usually in the second clause or sentence.
- Speakers often use antimetabole to motivate the audience.
- Antimetabole is a type of chiasmus.
“One for all and all for one!”
— Motto of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, 1844
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
— Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.
“Now, this is not the end. No, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
— Winston Churchill, Mansion House, London, 20 November 1942
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
— John Kennedy, Inaugural Address, 20 January 1961
“I lived in old barrios, ghettos, and reservations and housing projects. I have a message for our youth. I challenge them to put hope in their brains and not dope in their veins. I told them that like Jesus, I too was born in the slum. But just because you’re born in the slum does not mean the slum is born in you, and you can rise above it if your mind is made up. I told them in every slum there are two sides.”
— Jesse Jackson, Democratic National Convention, San Francisco, 18 July 1984
“While we pursue these arms reductions, I pledge to you that we will maintain the capacity to deter Soviet aggression at any level at which it might occur. … By these means we seek to increase the safety of Europe and all the world. But we must remember a crucial fact: East and West do not mistrust each other because we are armed; we are armed because we mistrust each other.”
— Ronald Reagan, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, 12 June 1987