Figure Name isocolon
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Ad Herennium 4.20.27 ("conpar"); Sherry (1550) ("isocolon," "compar") ; Peacham (1593) ("compar"); Puttenham (1589) ("parison," "the figure of even"); Day 1599 ("membrum," "parison"); JG Smith (1665) ("compar"); Ad Herennium 298; Garrett Epp (1994) ("compar," "isocolon"); Vinsauf (1967) ("compar"); Macbeth (1876) ("parison," "annomination," "isocolon"); De Mille (1882) ("parison," "isocolon," "annominatio"); Blount (1653) 32; Vickers (1989) ("isocolon"); Vickers (1989) ("parison")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms compar, conpar, parison, the figure of even, annomination, annominatio
Etymology Gk. isos, "equal" and kolon, "member"
Type Scheme
Linguistic Domain Orthographic

1. A series of similarly structured elements having the same length. A kind of parallelism. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Compar, of the Grecians called Isocolon, and Parison is a figure or forme of speech which maketh the members of an oration to be almost of a just number of sillables, yet the equalitie of those members or parts, are not to be measured upon our fingers, as if they were verses, but to bee tried by a secret sence of the eare: use & exercise may do much in this behalfe, which maketh it an easie matter to make the parts accourd in a fit proportion. First, when the former parts of a sentence, or of an oration be answered by the later, and that by proper words respecting the former. (Peacham)

3. Even, equal; a Rhetorical Exornation whereby the parts of a sentence doe consist almost of the like number of syllables, &c.; Compar, even, equal. alike: It is of Grecians called Isocolon and Parison. It is an even gait of sentences answering each other in measures interchangeably. A Rhetorical Exornation whereby the parts of a sentence doe consist almost of the like number of syllables; or when the words of a sentence match each other in rank, or the parts accord in a fit proportion; which is, when the former parts of a sentence or oration are answered by the later, and that by proper words respecting the former. (JG Smith)

4. The figure comprised of cola, which consist of a virtually equal number of syllables. (Ad Herennium)

5. A combination of cola or clauses with a virtually equal number of syllables. (Garrett Epp)

6. If a mode of expression both easy and adorned is desired, set aside all the techniques of the dignified style and have recourse to means that are simple, but of a simplicity that does not shock the ear by its rudeness. Here are the rhetorical colours with which to adorn your style: (Vinsauf)

7 a) Isocolon: Isocolon occurs when a sentence consists of members of about equal length, balanced against each other, as in this of Cicero:
"How triumphant he, did impudence avail as much in the senate and in the courts of justice, as audacity prevailed in the country and in the wilds of the province." (Macbeth)

7 b) Parison: When a word is opposed to another of similar or nearly similar sound but different meaning, this is Parison or Annomination; as when George Buchanan, whose Latin version of the Psalms is so elegant, the renowned teacher of James I of England, terms the monks of the time, not mendicant monks but manducant monks. (Macbeth)

Sometimes antithetical clauses of similar construction follow in a series. This is called "parison," and also "isocolon." Here word is contrasted with word, and clause with clause, and the forces of the contrast is marked; but the figure is too elaborate for ordinary prose of the present day. (De Mille)

8 b) 123. OTHER FIGURES.
There are several other figures which may be named here: Syllepsis, paronomasia, annominatio, and antanaclasis. These are all of the nature of tropes, and by allowing some particular term to be taken in two senses-literal or metaphorical-they give rise to what is called a "play on words." They all have the same general characteristics, and will be considered farther on. (De Mille)

9. "COMPAR is an even gait of sentences answering each other in measures interchangeably." (Blount)

10. Isocolon (or compar), where a sequence of clauses or sentences is of an identical length (and often of an identical structure: see parison). (Vickers 496)

11. Parison (or compar), corresponding or symmetrical structure of a sequence of clauses or sentences. (Vickers 497)


1. Veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered). Note: This example also demonstrates asyndeton, tricolon, and (in the Latin), alliteration and homoioptoton. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. He left the citie garnished, that the same might be a monument of victory, of clemencie, of continencie, that men might see, what he had conquered, what he spared, what he had left: compare ye the parts of the later clauses with the former, and you shall see how fitly they are matched. (Cicero qtd. in Peacham)

2. The Ox hath knowne his owner, and the Asse his maisters crib. (Esa.1. qtd. in Peacham)

2. See that equitie flow as the water, and rightousnesse as a mightie streame. (Amos.5. qtd. in Peacham)

2. An innocent although he be accused, he may be acquited, but the guiltie except he be accused he cannot be condemned. (Peacham)

4. "The father was meeting death in battle; the son was planning marriage at his home. These omens wrought grievous disasters." (Ad Herennium)

4. "Another man's prosperity is the gift of fortune, but this man's good character has been won by hard work." (Ad Herennium)

5. Cowards die many times before their deaths;

The valiant never taste of death but once. (JC 2.2 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

3. My years are not so many, but that one death may conclude them; nor my faults so many, but that one death may satisfie them. (JG Smith)

6. Lest perchance tempests by their violence overwhelm us, let us preserve honour and reject evil. (Vinsauf)

8. "Home was the greater genius, Virgil the better artist. In the one we most admire the man, in the other the work. Homer hurries us with a commanding impetuosity, Virgil leads us with an attractive majest. Homer scatters with a generous profusion, Virgil bestows with a careful magnificence. Homer, like the Nile, pours out his riches with a boundless overflow, Virgil, like a river in its banks, with a gentle and constant stream." -POPE. (De Mille)

9. "My years are not so many, but that one death may conclude them; nor my faults so many, but that one death may satisfie them." (Blount)

10. Was ever woman in this humour woo'd?
Was ever woman in this humour won?
--Shakespeare, Richard III, 1. 2. 227 (Vickers 496)

11. As Caesar lov'd me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.
--Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 3. 2. 24 (Vickers 497)

Kind Of Symmetry
Part Of
Related Figures colon, tricolon, antithesis, figures of separation
Notes "This figure of all others is most straightly tied to number and proportion, and therfore is most harmonicall. The use wherof doth cheefuly consist in cuasing delectation by the vertue of proportion and number, albeit holy authors doe use it, yet they do it in easie & plaine forme, but if the most artificial and exact forme of this figure be respected, ye use of it is more agreable for pleasant matters than grave causes, and more fit for Commedies then Tragedies. The Caution. Inequalitie of number is the fault which doth most digrace the beautifull forme and proportion of this ornament, and therfore to be most diligently avoided, neither ought this exornation in the most artificiall forme be used in grave and serious causes, for as much as it may bewray affectation, which in gravitie is misliked." (Peacham) "In this figure it may often happen that the number of syllables seems equal without being precisely so - as when one colon is shorter than the other by one or even two syllables, or when one colon contains more syllables, and the other contains one or more longer or fuller -sounding syllables, so that the length or fullness of sound of these matches and counterbalances the greater number of syllables in the other." (Ad Herennium)
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes Included note for example from SR [Wouldn't we say the English translation also exhibits anaphora (however weak)?--I mention this to make a larger point, namely: will it not be useful to design the database so that we can cross-reference the same examples? I think this would be very useful since so many examples illustrate multiple figures, and it will be easier to recognise the particular qualities of each figure by knowing what it is not. It may also help us spot (through cues linguistic and otherwise) related figures, and recognise where these relations are merely accidental.--CKL (Craig)]
Reviewed No