Figure Name antimetabole
Source Ad Herennium 4.28.39 ("commutatio"); Peacham (1577) K2r; Putt. (1589) 217 ("antimetavole," "the counterchange"); Day 1599 95 ("antimetano" [sic], "commutatio"); Hoskins (1599)14 ("antimetabole," "commutatio") ;Silva Rhetoricae (; JG Smith (1665) ("antimetabole"); Garrett Epp (1994) ("commutatio," "antimetabole"); Peacham 1593; Vinsauf (1967) ("commutatio"); Macbeth (1876)("antimetabole," "commutation"); Holmes (1806) ("antimetabole"); De Mille (1882); Blount (1653) 9; Bullinger (1898) ("antimetabole; or, counterchange"); Vickers (1989) ("antimetabole (or commutatio")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms commutatio, the counterchange, chiasmus, antimetavole
Etymology Gk. anti “in opposite direction” and metabole “turning about”
Type Scheme
Linguistic Domain Lexicographic

1. Repetition of words, in successive clauses, in reverse grammatical order. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. A turning of the words in a sentence upside down. Antimetabole, Commutatio, Inversio, a changing of word, by contraries, or a turning of the words in a sentence upside down; derived from [anti] against, and [metaballo] inverto, to invert, or turn upside down. Antimetabole is a sentence inverst, or turn'd back, or it is a form of speech which inverts a sentence by the contrary, and is used frequently to confute by such Inversion. A figure when words in the same sentence are repeated in a divers case or person.(JG Smith)

3. Balanced phrasing, with transposed order of words in the two halves of a statement. The two parts of the statement may be antithetical. (Garrett Epp)

4. Antimetabole, is a forme of speech which inverteth a sentence by the contrary, thus: It behoveth thee to eate that thou maist live, and not to live that thou maist eate. (Peacham)

5. 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)

6 a) Antimetabole: Of a figure so important there are many varieties that have been named. Words are repeated and opposed in the same tense or case, as when the ancient philosopher said:
"I do not live that I may eat, but eat that I may live."
This the Greeks called - Antimetabole. (Macbeth)

6 b) Commutation is the turning round of a proposition, as thus:
"If a poem is a speaking picture, a picture should be a silent poem." (Macbeth)

7. Antimetabole puts chang'd words again By contraries; some beauty to explain. (Holmes)

The order of the words is reversed in each member of the antithesis. (De Mille)

9. "ANTIMETABOLE, or COMMUTATIO, is a sentence inverst, or turn'd back" (Blount)

10. Epanodos, with Contrast or Opposistion... This figure repeats the word or words in a reverse order, for the purpose of opposing one thing to another, or of contrasting two or more things. It is a figure of Epanados with this special added object of opposing words against one another. (Bullinger, 317)

11. Antimetabole (or commutatio), where two or more words are repeated in inverse order. (Vickers 492)


1. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. —John F. Kennedy (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. You can take the gorilla out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the gorilla. (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. —Samuel Johnson, Rasselas (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. 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 (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. That as you are the child of a mother; so you may be the mother of a childe. (JG Smith)

3. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. (Mt 19.30 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

3. The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. (AYL 5.1 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

4. Another of the holy scripture: “Neither was the man created for the womans sake, but the woman for the mans sake.” 1 Cor.11. (Peacham)

4. Another: “The children ought not to laie up for their parents, but the parents for their children.” 2 Cor. 2 (Peacham)

4. An example of Cicero: Of eloquent men Crassus is counted the most learned Lawyer, and of Lawyers, Scaevola most eloquent. (Peacham)

5. O how holy the grace of Christ! How gracious the holiness! (Vinsauf)

6 b) "He that hath slight thoughts of sin, never had great thoughts of God." - Dr. John Owen (Macbeth)

7. A Poem is a speaking Picture; a Picture is a mute Poem. (Holmes)

8. This is called "antimetabole:"
"Be wiseley wordly, but not worldly wise." - QUARLES.
"A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits." - POPE.
"'Twas say by fits, by starts 'twas wild." - COLLINS.
"He best can paint them who can feel them most." - POPE. (De Mille)

8. "Where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise." - GRAY. (De Mille)

8. "Beautiful as sweet!
And young as beautiful! and soft as young!
And gay as soft! and innocent as gay!"-YOUNG (De Mille)

9. "If any for love on honor, or honor of love, &c. That as you are the child of a mother, so you may be mother of a child, &c." (Blount)

10. Isa. 5:20. -"Woe unto them that call
good, and
that put darkness
for light,
and light for
that put bitter
for sweet
and sweet for bitter." (Bullinger, 318)

11. Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly? --Shakespeare, "Sonnet 8" (Vickers 492)

Kind Of Opposition
Part Of
Related Figures chiasmus, parallelism, figures of repetition, figures of order, antithesis
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes Not super confident about "linguistic domains" -cl // Morphological and semantic don't seem like they're defining characteristics of this figure so I removed them. -ark
Reviewed No