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Hypallage (/hˈpælə/; from the Greek: ὑπαλλαγή, hypallagḗ, "interchange, exchange") or transferred epithet[1] is a literary device that can be described as an abnormal, unexpected change of two segments in a sentence.[2]



  • "On the idle hill of summer/Sleepy with the flow of streams/Far I hear..." (A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad) — idle hill... sleepy is a hypallage: it is the narrator, not the hill, who exhibits these features.
  • "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 are awake through them do.

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.[3]


  1. ^ 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. 
  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. ^ Gérard Genette Fiction & Diction, p.110

Further readingEdit