Word Of The Week – Anastrophe

YodaYou may be looking at this word and thinking you have no idea what it is, but if you’re even passingly familiar with Star Wars then you DO know it without realizing it.




Definition: inversion of the usual syntactical order of words for rhetorical effect. The name for this kind of syntactical inversion is anastrophe, from the Greek verb anastrephein, meaning “to turn back.”


“Powerful you have become Dooku, the dark side I sense in you.” Fans of Star Wars will recognize Yoda’s line in Attack of the Clones. Others might guess that Yoda is the speaker because of the unconventional syntax that is the hallmark of Yoda’s speech. (In typical Yoda fashion, the subject is second instead of first in both clauses—it follows a predicate adjective and the direct object, respectively.)

President John F. Kennedy employed anastrophe for rhetorical effect when he inverted the typical positive-to-negative parallelism in his famous line “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

In poetry, anastrophe is often used to create rhythm, as in these lines from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”: “So rested he by the Tumtum tree, / And stood awhile in thought.”

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