Definition of Epizeuxis

Epizeuxis is a form of in which one word or a short phrase is repeated in succession with no other words in between. Epizeuxis examples are particularly vehement and forceful in their repetition, and usually signify a great deal of emotion being expressed. The definition of epizeuxis is the same as that of palilogia. It is also sometimes confused with diacope, which refers to repetition of the same word with just one or two words in between (such as “Bond. James Bond”).

The word epizeuxis comes from Greek for “fastening together.”

Common Examples of Epizeuxis

Epizeuxis examples can be found in many different areas, including famous advertising slogans, movie lines, and speeches. Here are some examples:

But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period–I am addressing myself to the School–surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

—Winston Churchill, “Never Give In” speech at Harrow School, October 29, 1941

I love scotch. Scotchy scotch scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly.

—Ron Burgundy in Anchorman (played by Will Ferrell), 2004

Give me a break,
give me a break;
break me off a piece of that
Kit Kat bar

—Advertising slogan for Kit Kat, 1986

Significance of Epizeuxis in Literature

Repetition always works to emphasize a particular idea or the connection between different ideas. However, different forms of repetition work in different ways. Some types show a particular ingenuity, such as in , wherein two words or phrases are repeated in opposite order. Epizeuxis, on the other hand, does not necessarily show any cleverness in the language. Instead, its function is usually to show an extreme emotion on the part of the speaker. This could be any emotion, including anger, hope, joy, fear, disgust, grief, and so on.

Examples of Epizeuxis in Literature

Example #1

MACBETH: She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
— To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

(Macbeth by William Shakespeare)

One of the most beautiful examples from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is the famous “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech. In fact, there are two separate examples of epizeuxis in this speech. First, of course, is the repetition of “tomorrow.” Macbeth also repeats the word “out” twice. This is indeed an example of Macbeth displaying deep and intense emotion, as he has just heard the news of his wife’s death.

Example #2

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.

(“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

This lovely from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous epic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” contains an excellent example of epizeuxis. The poet repeats the word “alone” twice, then “all” twice, then “alone” twice again. More than anywhere else in the poem, this stanza displays the intense solitude of life on the sea as a mariner.

Example #3

‘You’ve got to realize,’ he said, ‘ that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to. I’m perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you.’
‘Doesn’t it mean anything to you? We could get along.’
‘Of course it does. But I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want anyone else. And I know it’s
perfectly simple.’
‘Yes, you know it’s perfectly simple.’
‘It’s all right for you to say that, but I do know it.’
‘Would you do something for me now?’
‘I’d do anything for you.’
‘Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?’

(“Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway)

Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” is famous for its economy of words, as was common to the author’s . Thus, the example of epizeuxis above is all the more striking because it signifies a departure from Hemingway’s usual choice of brevity above all. In this story a couple is sitting and talking on a particularly hot day in Spain. Though it seems at first that they are not talking about anything important, there is a subtext that is slowly revealed that something much more important is going on: they are discussing the upcoming abortion that the girl is about to have. The man is trying to reassure, but she finally gets frustrated by the conversation and how lightly he seems to be taking the situation. Therefore, she bursts out in a line with the word “please” repeated seven times to plead with him to stop talking. Her outburst is surprising because there is no forewarning; she seems to be as calm as he is. Thus, this example of epizeuxis shows just how strong her emotions are.

Example #4

“‘The horror! The horror!’”

(Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad)

One of the most famous lines from Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness is one of the shortest: the character Kurtz’s reflection on his life summed up in the repetition of the phrase “The horror!” Though he only repeats it once, there is a clear indication of just how deeply fearful he feels when contemplating his life, the depravity of humanity, and the atrocities of imperialism.

Example #5

“Shortstop,” the boy says. “Short’s the best position they is.” Anders turns and looks at him. He wants to hear Coyle’s cousin repeat what he’s just said, but he knows better than to ask. The others will think he’s being a jerk, ragging the kid for his grammar. But that isn’t it, not at all – it’s that Anders is strangely roused, elated, by those final two words, their pure unexpectedness and their music. He takes the field in a trance, repeating them to himself.

But for now Anders can still make time. Time for the shadows to lengthen on the grass, time for the tethered dog to bark at the flying ball, time for the boy in right field to smack his sweat-blackened mitt and softly chant, They is, they is, they is.

(“Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff)

Tobias Wolff’s short story “Bullet in the Brain” is about a literary critic who gets shot in the head during a bank robbery; the reader encounters the different memories that go streaming through his mind before death. His mind settles on an experience he had as a young boy when another boy says, “Short’s the best position they is.” Though the has spent his life criticizing other people’s usage of grammar, he is able in his final moment to dwell on a particularly beautiful incorrect usage of language. This moment signifies a small redemption for the critic just before death.