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Diacope is a literary term that refers to the repetition of a word or phrase.

This kind of repetition occurs with a few intervening words or words that fall in-between those repeated. In writing, there is no single rule that applies to diacope. This means that the distance between the repeated words may vary between iterations. Some might be separated by one word, while others might be spaced apart with a few more. 

Diacope pronunciation: dye-uh-kope

Diacope definition and examples


Definition of Diacope

The word “diacope” comes from the Greek meaning “cutting in two.” This literary term occurs when a word or phrase is repeated, with one or more words separating the instances of repetition. As mentioned above, there is no single rule that all iterations of the diacope follow. One, two, three, or more words might separate the examples of repetition. Plus, the repeated word or words don’t need to be exactly the same in order to be classified as an example of a diacope. For example, one might use “run” and “running” or “She ran” and “She runs.” 

It’s also possible to encounter examples of diacope that occur within or around other examples. It’s easy to imagine, especially in a poem or especially a poetic piece of prose, how the repetition of a select number of words might occur.


Types of Diacope 

There are three different types of diacope. They are: 

  • Vocative: occurs when someone addresses another person by using their name or another phrase that directly relates to them. For example, “Run, Toto, run!” from the wizard of Oz or similarly, “Run, Forest, run” from the film Forest Gump.
  • Extended: occurs when a word or phrase is repeated three times. The intervening phrase appears between the second and third repetition. For example, the famous lines from Martin Luther King Jr. read: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty we are free at last.” The phrase “free at last” is repeated three lines with “Thank god almighty we are” as the intervening phrase.
  • Elaborative: when an adjective or another related piece of information appears between repeated phrases. This occurs so that the writer might provide the reader with more detail about the diacope’s subject. The famous example of ‘From sea to shining sea” demonstrates this kind of diacope perfectly. Another good example is “I want a meal, a decadent, expensive meal.” 


Examples of Diacope in Literature 

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare 

In this famous history play, William Shakespeare includes the following lines, which serve as an example of a vocative diacope. They fall near the end of the play. In Act IV, Scene 15, Cleopatra says: 

O sun,

Burn the great sphere thou movest in!

darkling stand

The varying shore o’ the world. O Antony,

Antony, Antony! Help, Charmian, help, Iras, help;

Help, friends below; let’s draw him hither. 

Then, a few lines of dialogue later, Antony uses the following lines: 

I am dying, Egypt, dying; only 

I here importune death awhile, until 

Of many thousand kisses the poor last 

I lay up thy lips.

Antony is dying in this scene, and Cleopatra is reacting to that fact. He asks that he might live for a few more moments to place his last of “many thousand kisses” on her lips. In the first passage, Cleopatra repeats Antony’s name three times as she does the word “help.” Antony uses “dying” twice, with “Egypt” as the intervening word in his dialogue as well. 

Explore William Shakespeare’s poems.


Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens 

In this less-commonly read Dickens novel, there is a great example of elaborative diacope. Bella Wilfer speaks the following lines. 

I hate to be poor, and we are degradingly poor, offensively poor, miserably poor, beastly poor. But here I am, left with all the ridiculous parts of the situation remaining, and, added to them all, this ridiculous dress!

By repeating the word “poor” several times in this excerpt, she’s ensuring that those listening, including the reader, are very much aware of her opinion on the matter. She hates being poor and sees it as offensive misery. 

Discover Charles Dickens’ poetry.


Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf 

In Woolf’s most famous novel, Mrs. Dalloway, readers can find a good example of elaborative dialogue. 

Clarissa had a theory in those days–they had heaps of theories, always theories, as young people have. It was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known. For how could they know each other? You met every day; then not for six months, or years.

In this passage, Woolf writes the word “theory,” “theories,” and “theories” again in the first line. She also repeats the words “knowing” and “know.” Both of these examples are part of her stream of consciousness style. They convey Mrs. Dalloway’s thoughts smoothly and as they come into her mind.


The Life that I Have by Leo Marks 

In this Marks poem, the poet uses the following lines, which serve as a great example of how diacope uses repetition. 

And the life that I have

Is yours.

The love that I have

Of the life that I have

Is yours and yours and yours.

Yet death will be but a pause

In the long green grass

Will be yours and yours and yours.

Here, Marks uses “you” and “yours” numerous times. As he does, “that I have.” These examples give the poem a great deal of rhythm and also demonstrate how effective repetition can be in lines of verse. It is also easier to spot in lines of poetry than it is in novels or even short stories.


Related Literary Terms 

  • Repetition: an important literary technique that sees a writer reuse words or phrases multiple times.
  • Epistrophe: the repetition of the same word or a phrase at the end of multiple clauses or sentences.
  • Anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession.
  • Anadiplosis: to the repetition of words so that the second clause starts with the same word/s that appeared in the previous.
  • Antimetabole: the repetition of words, in reverse order, in successive clauses.


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