Repetition Definition

Repetition is a literary device that repeats the same words or phrases a few times to make an idea clearer. There are several types of repetitions commonly used in both prose and poetry.

As a rhetorical device, it could be a word, a phrase or a full sentence or a poetical line repeated to emphasize its significance in the entire text. Repetition is not distinguished solely as a figure of speech but more as a rhetorical device.

Types of Repetition

The following examples of repetition are classified according to the different types of repetition used both in literature and in daily conversations.

  • Anadiplosis: Repetition of the last word in a line or clause.
  • Anaphora: Repetition of words at the start of clauses or verses.
  • Antistasis: Repetition of word s or phrases in opposite sense.
  • Diacope: Repetition of words broken by some other words.
  • Epanalepsis: Repetition of same words at the end and start of a sentence.
  • Epimone: Repetition of a phrase (usually a question) to stress a point.
  • Epiphora: Repetition of the same word at the end of each clause.
  • Gradatio: A construction in poetry where the last word of one clause becomes the first of the next and so on.
  • Negative-Positive Restatement: Repetition of an idea first in negative terms and then in positive terms.
  • Polyptoton: Repetition of words of the same root with different endings.
  • Symploce: It is a combination of anaphora and epiphora in which repetition is both at the end and at the beginning.

Repetition Examples from Literature

Example 1

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody too?
Then there’s a pair of us-don’t tell!
They’d banish us you know.

These lines have been taken from “I’m nobody! Who are You?” by Emily Dickinson. Observe how she has used “nobody” to emphasize her point in her poem to create an association with the person she is talking about.

Example 2

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn…

These three lines have been taken from “Ash-Wednesday” authored by T. S. Eliot, a famous modern poet of the 20th century. The repetition of a full phrase shows us mastery the poet has acquired in using words and phrases to make his point clear and emphasize that he has no hope of coming back.

Example 3

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

These lines have been taken from the famous poem “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by S.T. Coleridge. The poem tells a story where a seafarer tells about his adventures in the sea.

Example 4

“My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.”

These lines have been taken from “Richard III” by William Shakespeare, Richard. These lines show the repetition of a phrase that occurs at the end of the first and then start of the second line. It is called anadiplosis.

Example 5

“A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed.”

These lines are among the repetition examples from the theme song of Mr. Ed, a 1960s TV program. This is an example of a diacope type of rhetorical repetition. There is repetition but it is broken up with several other words.

Function of Repetition

The beauty of using figurative language is that the pattern it arranges the words into is nothing like our ordinary speech. It is not only stylistically appealing but it also helps convey the message in much more engaging and notable way. The aura that is created by the usage of repetition cannot be achieved through any other device. It has the ability of making a simple sentence sound like a dramatic one. It enhances the beauty of a sentence and stresses on the point of main significance. Repetition often uses word associations to express the ideas and emotions in an indirect manner. The beauty of reading a piece with repetition in it is the balance where we, as readers, have to decipher such associations and understand the underlying meanings.

Repetition as a literary term can be used both constructively and destructively. The constructive usage encompasses functions such as, putting emphasis on a point, confirming a fact or an idea, cohesion, mimesis, transition, showing impartiality and or describing a notion. The same literary device when used destructively can disintegrate the entire piece of writing. Erasure, redundancy, continuous present, fragmentation, copying and habitual misuse of the literary device are among the destructive effects.