Anthimeria, also known as antimeria, refers to the use of a word in a new grammatical form, such as changing nouns to verbs.
It usually occurs when nouns are used as verbs and replaces one part of speech with another. For example, the contemporary word “adulting” is an example of a temporary anthimeria, meaning that it is currently popular, and understood by most of the population but is unlikely to outlast the next few generations.
Definition of Anthimeria
Anthimeria is a rhetorical device that originated from the Greek word “anti-meros,” meaning “one part of another.” There are many examples dating back to the Elizabethan period and beyond, especially with the popularization of words coined and transformed by William Shakespeare.
Common Examples of Anthimeria
Some examples of anthimeria include:
- Mean-mugging— making a mean face.
- Google—to look something up.
- Dogged— pester or annoy.
- Hashtagging—to tag something on social media with a keyword.
- Handsome—(changes from an adjective to a noun) a name for someone attractive.
- Sing—used as a noun when someone says, “Have a good sing.”
- Sleep— used a noun when someone says, “Have a good sleep.”
- Truthing— telling the truth.
Types of Anthimeria
- Temporary Anthimeria: only popular in the contemporary moment, not long-lasting in any significant way. The language isn’t permanently changed by it. For example, the word “hashtagging” and “Bedazzler.”
- Permanent Anthimeria: an example of anthimeria that emerged in a language and is now widely used. It can be assumed to be permanent, lasting into the foreseeable future. For example, words like “texting” and “chill” when used to refer to making something colder rather than as a synonym for “cold.”
Examples of Anthimeria in Literature
Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
The following lines come from Thomas Hardy’s novel Under the Greenwood Tree: A Rural Painting of the Dutch School. He published it anonymously in 1872 and is the first in his Wessex series.
The parishioners about here,” continued Mrs. Day, not looking at any living being, but snatching up the brown delf tea-things, “are the laziest, gossipest, poachest, jailest set of any ever I came among. And they’ll talk about my teapot and tea-things next, I suppose!
In this passage, readers can find three examples of anthimeria, “gossipest,” “poachest,” and “jailest.” These words are used to describe the “parishioners,” but they also tell the reader a lot about Mrs. Day and demonstrate Hardy’s creativity and willingness to experiment with language.
Explore more of Thomas Hardy’s poetry.
King Lear by William Shakespeare
Throughout William Shakespeare’s broad and diverse oeuvre, readers can find numerous examples of times where the poet and playwright invented new words, remade old ones, and created new turns of phrase that surprised readers. Within Shakespeare’s historical play, King Lear, the writer makes use of anthimeria in these lines spoken by King Lear himself:
When the rain came to wet me once, and the wind to make me chatter, when the thunder would not peace at my bidding—there I found ’em, there I smelt ’em out. Go to, they are not men o’ their words.
In this passage, Lear uses the word “peace” in a new and interesting way, considering how it would not be quiet when he ordered it to. It would not bring itself to a state of peace and allow him peace.
Anthimeria in Advertising
Anthimeria, or the act of turning an adjective or verb into a noun or other grammatical transition, is quite popular in advertising. Companies use phrases like “Your best beautiful” (Olay) and “Where better happens” (Sears) in order to catch shoppers’ attention and make them, in theory, think about their product/s more. Other examples include:
- The future of awesome (Xfinity)
- Rethink possible (AT&T)
- 15 seconds of smart (Farmers Insurance)
- Unlock your more (Fiat)
Anthimeria and Neologism
A neologism is a new word invented by a writer or any person within the course of their everyday conversations. They are sometimes anthimerias, but not always. A word that is both a neologism and anthimeria is “Shakespearean,” used to refer to works that are related to Shakespeare’s own. This might be due to the period in which they were written or the style the author made use of. Another good example is the word “spam.” It’s used today as “spam,” “spamming,” and “spammed” in regard to junk emails or messages.
Why Do Writers Use Anthimeria?
Writers use anthimeria to make their writing more interesting and original.
When a character uses a word in a new way, they’re also making a statement about who they are, where they’re from, and how they see the world. This allows writers to easily and cleverly create characterization while simultaneously expressing their own creativity. Anthimeria becomes even more important when a word outlasts the period in which it was coined or changed. Such is the case with various neologisms and anthimerias from William Shakespeare’s works.
Related Literary Terms
- Appositive: occurs when a word, sometimes a noun, is followed by another noun or phrase that names or changes it in some way.
- Trope: the use of figurative language to make descriptions more evocative and interesting.
- Imagery: the elements of a poem that engage a reader’s senses. These are the important sights, sounds, feelings, and smells.
- Mood: the feeling created by the writer for the reader. It is what happens within a reader because of the tone the writer used in the poem.
- Metaphor: used to describe an object, person, situation, or action in a way that helps a reader understand it without using “like” or “as.”
- Idiom: a short-expression that means something different than its literal translation.