Definition, Examples of the Rhetorical Term Epanalepsis

Definition, Examples of the Rhetorical Term Epanalepsis

(1) Epanalepsis is a rhetorical term for the repetition of a word or phrase at regular intervals: a refrain. Adjective: epanaleptic.

(2) More specifically, epanalepsis may refer to repetition at the end of a clause or sentence of the word or phrase with which it began, as in "Next time there won't be a next time" (Phil Leotardo in The Sopranos). In this sense, epanalepsis is a combination of anaphora and epistrophe. Also known as inclusio.

From the Greek, "resumption, repetition"



  • "Always Low Prices. Always." (Walmart slogan)
  • "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice." (The Bible, Phil. 4.4)
  • "In the run-up to Christmas, we will publicly disembowel anyone heard using the phrase 'in the run-up to Christmas.'" (Michael Bywater, The Chronicles of Bargepole, Jonathan Cape, 1992)
  • "Music I heard with you was more than music,
    And bread I broke with you was more than bread." (Conrad Aiken, "Bread and Music," 1914)
  • "He is noticeable for nothing in the world except for the markedness by which he is noticeable for nothing.” (Edgar Allan Poe, "The Literati of New York City." Godey's Lady's Book, Sep. 1846)
  • "Say over again, and yet once over again,
    That thou dost love me… " (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese)
  • “Imagine me, an old gentleman, a distinguished author, gliding rapidly on my back, in the wake of my outstretched dead feet, first through that gap in the granite, then over a pinewood, then along misty water meadows, and then simply between marges of mist, on and on, imagine that sight!” (Vladimir Nabokov, Look at the Harlequins! McGraw Hill, 1974)
  • "Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
    Possessed by what we now no more possessed." (Robert Frost, "The Gift Outright")
  • "They went home and told their wives,
    that never once in all their lives,
    had they known a girl like me,
    But… They went home. (Maya Angelou, "They Went Home")
  • "The man who did the waking buys the man who was sleeping a drink; the man who was sleeping drinks it while listening to a proposition from the man who did the waking." (Jack Sparrow, The Pirates of the Caribbean)
  • "We know nothing of one another, nothing. Smiley mused. However closely we live together, at whatever time of day or night we sound the deepest thoughts in one another, we know nothing." (John le Carré, Call for the Dead, 1961)

Epanalepsis in Julius Caesar

"Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that you may believe." (Brutus in Act III, scene two of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare)
By repeating "hear" and "believe" at both the beginning and end of successive lines, Brutus emphasizes to the crowd that these are the two main things he desires: for the crowd to "hear" him and, more significantly, to "believe" what he is about to say regarding the assassination of Julius Caesar.

Epanalepsis in Little Dorritt

"Mr. Tite Barnacle was a buttoned-up man, and consequently a weighty one. All buttoned-up men are weighty. All buttoned-up men are believed in. Whether or no the reserved and never-exercised power of unbuttoning, fascinates mankind; whether or no wisdom is supposed to condense and augment when buttoned up, and to evaporate when unbuttoned; it is certain that the man to whom importance is accorded is the buttoned-up man. Mr. Tite Barnacle never would have passed for half his current value, unless his coat had been always buttoned-up to his white cravat." (Charles Dickens, Little Dorritt, 1855-1857)

Epanalepsis in James Joyce's Ulysses

"Don John Conmee walked and moved in times of yore. He was humane and honoured there. He bore in mind secrets confessed and he smiled at smiling noble faces in a beeswaxed drawingroom, ceiled with full fruit clusters. And the hands of a bride and bridegroom, noble to noble, were impalmed by Don John Conmee." (James Joyce's, Chapter 10 of Ulysses, 1922)

Notes on Epanalepsis in Prose

  • "Epanalepsis is rare in prose, probably because when the emotional situation arises that can make such a scheme appropriate, poetry seems to be the only form that can adequately express the emotion." (Edward P.J. Corbett and Robert J. Connors, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. Oxford University Press, 1999)
  • "When epanalepsis is used in prose, it often creates sentences that stand alone as aphorisms: 'Nothing can be created out of nothing' (Lucretius). 'Men of few words are the best men' (Henry IV 3.2)." (Arthur Quinn and Lyon Rathbun, "Epanalepsis." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, ed. by Theresa Enos. Taylor & Francis, 1996)
  • "The fourth-century grammarian and rhetorician Tiberius lists epanalepsis as a rhetorical figure, but at the conclusion of his explanation uses the term analepsis instead: 'Epanalepsis is when the same word is placed twice in the same clause or in the same sentence, with the same context… Public speakers use analepsis at the beginning, in the same way as palillogia, but Homer used it also at the end.'" (Joachim Burmeister, Musical Poetics, trans. by Benito V. Rivera. Yale Univ. Press, 1993)