An Introduction to Antimetabole

Antimetabole (derives from Greek anti “in opposite direction,” and metabole “turning about”), is a form of speech with inverted order of words; so that the meaning is twisted, as:

  • √   “A poem is a speaking picture; a picture is a mute poem.”
  • √   “We must eat to live, and not live to eat.”

This is achieved by the inverted order of repeated words in adjacent phrases or clauses (A-B, B-A). Antimetabole is similar to chiasmusOpens in new window, in which one sentence is the grammatical inverse of the next.

Examples of Antimetabole
  • Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”
  • Samuel Johnson, Rasselas
  • “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter”— Isaiah 5:20
  • You can take the gorilla out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the gorilla.
Further Readings:
American Rhetoric | Antimetabole Opens in new window