Hyperbaton

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This article is part of the Figures of Speech course. You may choose to follow it in a structured way, or read each item separately.

Hyperbaton is a figure of speech that carries the idea of "the orders of words that are not the 'natural' usual patterns of English" to extremes. It is defined in OED as "A figure of speech in which the customary or logical order of words or phrases is inverted, esp. for the sake of emphasis." So any departure from the normal word order, if done for effect and not just, let us say, by accident, can be called a hyperbaton. (If it involves putting the word or idea that should come first, in normal usage, after the word that should normally come second, then it is called hysteron proteron.)

For example, "This I can do without" is a hysteron proteron for "I can do without this", used for emphasis.

Etymological note: The word hyperbaton is a transliteration of the Greek word ὑπερβατόν (huperbaton), which has the same meaning as the English word and is a compound of the preposition ὑπέρ (huper), ‘above, over, exceeding’, and βατός (batos), an adjective from the verb βαίνειν (bainein), ‘to walk, step’.