Definition of Hyperbaton in English

In rhetoric, a hyperbaton is a literary figure of construction that consists in the alteration of the usual or conventional order of the words in the sentence. The word, as such, comes from the Latin hyperbăton, and is in turn from the Greek ὑπερβατόν (hyperbatón).

The hyperbaton is a rhetorical figure widely used in literary discourse, especially in poetry, to provide the text with expressiveness, intensity or beauty, as well as to print a certain strangeness, intrigue or depth to the language.

For example, where Rubén Darío says: “Your kisses and your tears I had in my mouth” (in the poem “Margarita”), the most common would have been to write “I had your kisses and your tears in my mouth”. However, the poet alters the syntactic order of the elements to endow the verse with beauty and emotion.

In poetry its use is usually due to the need to adjust the verse to the metric used, place an accent in a certain place, get a rhyme or create a synalefa.

As a literary resource in the Castilian language, hyperbaton can be traced back to prose in the fifteenth century, thanks to the influence of the syntactic scheme of Latin or as an imitation of it.

Hyperbaton Examples

  • “Well, to his continued tenderness / a violent passion he united. / In a pure gauze cucumber / a bacchante was wrapped.” In: “Song of autumn in spring”, by Rubén Darío.
  • “I want to express my anguish in verses that abolish / will say my youth of roses and dreams”. In: “Nocturno”, by Rubén Darío.
  • “And for the cruel one that rips me off / the heart with which I live, / thistle or nettle cultivation; / I cultivate the white rose.” In: “I grow a white rose”, by José Martí.
  • “Very close to my sunset, I bless you, Life.” In: “En paz”, by Amado Nervo.
  • “Gray and purple / is my olive green.” In: “Canción”, by José Moreno Villa.