Anaphora | Definition, Examples in Literature, Poetry, Movie

What is Anaphora? Definition, Examples and Functions


What is Anaphora?

Anaphora is a Greek term meaning ‘reference’ or ‘carrying back’.

Anaphora Definition

Anaphora is a literary device in which the same expression is repeated at the beginning of several successive lines, clauses, or sentences. Anaphora is figures of speech used by the writers or orators in order to convey, emphasize and reinforce meaning.

Anaphora is also known as Epanaphora. It may be recalled that a kind of melody is produced by such repetitions.

Anaphora Examples

“Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs.

Where youth grows pale, and spectre thin and dies.

Where but to think is to be full of sorrow.”

(‘Ode to a Nightingale’, John Keats)

This is a case of the figure, anaphora.

Here the word ‘where’ is reiterated at the beginning of all the lines.

Anaphora in Daily Use Examples

  1. “Stay safe. Stay well. Stay happy.”
  2. “Open heart, open mind.”
  3. “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
  4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”
  5. “Be bold. Be brief. Be gone.”
  6. “So many places, so little time.”
  7. “Every single day you let me down. Every single day you make me mad. Every single day you do such silly things!”

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Examples Anaphora in Literature

Charles Dickens used anaphora in the beginning of his famous novel A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

“I have summoned you here to witness your work. I have summoned you here to witness it, because I know it will be gall and wormwood to you. I have summoned you here to witness it, because I know the sight of everybody here must be a dagger in your mean, false heart.”


“Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance or medicine, but lost time is gone forever.” 


“I impeach him in the name of the Commons House of Parliament, whose trust he has betrayed. I impeach him in the name of the English nation, whose ancient honour he has sullied. I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose rights he has trodden under foot, and whose country he has turned into a desert.”


Examples of Anaphora in Poetry

  1. Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die.


  1. What I spent I had

What I kept I lost,

What I gave I have.

  1. Ring out old shapes of foul disease,

Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.


4.There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society where none intrudes.


  1. And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,

And she forgot the blue above the trees,

And she forgot the dells where waters run,

And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze


  1. And call her Ida tho’ I knew her not;

And call her sweet as if in irony;

And call her hard and cold, which seemed a truth.

Examples of Anaphora in Public Speaking

Few great legends used anaphora with deft excellency and proved themselves as good orator by catching the attention of the public. Here are a few best anaphoric speeches:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

(Martin Luther King Jr.)

“I Came, I saw, I conquer.”

(Julius Caesar)

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

(Mark Twin)

“Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.” 

(Martin Luther King Jr.)

Anaphora Examples in Movie

In the movie The Great DictatorCharlie Chaplin’s anaphoric speech is charged with emotional intensity and passion:

“We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another.”

“You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.”

Functions of Anaphora

Anaphora gives emphasis to speech or writing. The repetition of words magnetizes the public or reader’s attention within a moment.

Anaphora heightens the emotional intensity of the readers or audiences straightaway.

Judicious use of anaphora in speech or writing creates music and rhythm in a very effective way.

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