AskDefine | Define hypallage

Dictionary Definition

hypallage n : reversal of the syntactic relation of two words (as in `her beauty's face')

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A literary device that is the reversal of the syntactic relation of two words, e.g. "her beauty's face" or I can't knock the smirk off his stupid face (because the thing that is referred to being stupid is "him", and not "his face").

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Extensive Definition

Hypallage () is a literary device that is the reversal of the syntactic relation of two words (as in "her beauty's face").
One kind of hypallage, also known as a transferred epithet, is the trope or rhetorical device in which a modifier, usually an adjective, is applied to the "wrong" word in the sentence. The word whose modifier is thus displaced can either be actually present in the sentence, or it can be implied logically. For example:
  • "The plowman homeward plods his weary way, / And leaves the world to darkness and to me" (Thomas Gray, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard") — Weary way is a hypallage: it is the plowman, not the way, that is weary.
  • "restless night" — The night was not restless, but the person who was awake through it was.
  • "happy morning" — Mornings have no feelings, but the people who are awake through them do.
  • "female prison" — Prisons do not have genders, but the people who are inside them do.
  • "condemned cell" — It is not the cell that is condemned, but the person who is inside it.
Hypallage is often used strikingly in Ancient Greek and Latin poetry. We find such examples of transferred epithets as "the winged sound of whirling" (), meaning "the sound of whirling wings" (Aristophanes, Birds 1198), and Horace's "angry crowns of kings" (iratos...regum apices, Odes 3.21.19f.). Virgil was given to hypallage beyond the transferred epithet, as "give the winds to the fleets" (dare classibus Austros, Aeneid 3.61), meaning "give the fleets to the winds."


  • Greek Grammar
hypallage in Catalan: Hipàl·lage
hypallage in German: Hypallage
hypallage in Spanish: Hipálage
hypallage in French: Hypallage
hypallage in Italian: Ipallage
hypallage in Latin: Hypallage
hypallage in Polish: Hypallage
hypallage in Portuguese: Hipálage
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