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Hypallage (/hˈpælə/; from the Greek: ὑπαλλαγή, hypallagḗ, "interchange, exchange") is a figure of speech in which the syntactic relationship between two terms is interchanged,[1] or—more frequently—a modifier is syntactically linked to an item other than the one that it modifies semantically.[2] The latter type of hypallage, typically resulting in the implied personification of an inanimate or abstract noun, is also called a transferred epithet.[3]



  • "On the idle hill of summer/Sleepy with the flow of streams/Far I hear..." (A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad) — "Idle", although syntactically modifying "hill", semantically describes the narrator, not the hill.
  • "Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time" — Wilfred Owen, "Dulce et Decorum est"
  • "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 awaken to them do.
  • "Cups, to which I never moved my lips" for "cups which I never moved to my lips".[4]
  • "While he's waiting, Richard pops a nervous handful of salted nuts into his mouth." (A. M. Homes, This Book Will Save Your Life)

In other languagesEdit

Hypallage is often used strikingly in Ancient Greek and Latin poetry. We find such examples of transferred epithets as "the winged sound of whirling" (δίνης πτερωτὸς φθόγγος), 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."

Literary critic Gérard Genette argued that the frequent use of hypallage is characteristic of Marcel Proust's style.[5]


  1. ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary
  2. ^ Dupriez, Bernard Marie (1991). A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradius, A-Z. University of Toronto Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-8020-6803-3. Retrieved 31 May 2013.Dupriez, Bernard Marie (1991). A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus, A-Z. University of Toronto Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-8020-6803-3.
  3. ^ Virgil (1 January 2004). Vergil's Aeneid: selections from books 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, and 12. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-86516-584-7.
  4. ^ John Stirling, A System of Rhetoric, in a Method Entirely New: Containing All the Tropes and Figures Necessary to Illustrate the Classics, Both Poetical and Historical, 2nd ed.: London, 1736, p. 14
  5. ^ Gérard Genette Fiction & Diction, p.110

Further readingEdit