Antiphrasis (pronounced as an-TIF-ra-sis) is one of the figures of speech wherein a word or phrase has a sense that is contradicting to its conventional meaning in order to achieve an ironic or humorous effect. You may also see Meiosis Examples – Definition & Usage.
The adjective term for antiphrasis is antiphrastic. Other known terms for antiphrasis are semantic inversion and verbal irony.
Antiphrasis is derived from Greek term antiphrasis; anti meaning against and phrasis meaning diction. It also means express by the opposite. You may also see Examples of Verbal Irony.
Antiphrasis has a tendency to alter the straightforward or direct meaning of words. The meaning of the wordplay depends on the speaker or the writer. The speaker or writer could twist the meaning of words and they could even bring new meaning to it. You may also see Dramatic Irony – Definition and Examples.
Other than creating new meanings of words, antiphrasis enables speakers or writers to pique the interest of their listeners or readers. It also adds fun and lightens up the mood of any conversation or any written composition. When there will be instances wherein it is hard to admit one’s true feelings about a particular situation, the use of antiphrasis will enable us to at least imply what we actually mean and feel. Just hope that the person you are talking to or the person reading your text will immediately understand what you actually meant to say. You may also see Examples of Situational Irony – Definition.
Here are some examples of antiphrasis that we may use in our daily conversations:
You ate last the food even though you knew it was just reheated from last night? That’s amazing!
Thank you for throwing the used gift wrapping papers when I was about to recycle it.
Thank you for consuming the entire food on the table as well as the food inside the refrigerator. How considerate of you when I have not eaten yet.
Topping chocolate sundae with ketchup and dipping french fries in soy sauce sounds delicious. I can’t wait to try such weird and sickly combination.
We call Elizabeth, the tallest member of our cheering squad, as Tiny Woman.
Here comes Mark, a six-foot midget.
My skin is so flawless that the huge pimple on top of my nose agrees with it.
My mother is but a child of fifty years.
I’ve seen her wonderful audition performance on stage last night. It made me decide not to watch any auditions in the future.
Get in, big man; suit yourself in my tiny car.
It’s freezing cold outside with the 40-degree celsius temperature.
Hilda’s short bob-cut hair made people call her Rapunzel.
Take your time mopping endlessly on the floor. Just so you know, we got all day to wait for you.
The fly was invited by the spider to enter to his parlor. His parlor happens to be a web that traps prey.
Examples of Antiphrasis in Literature
Take note of the italicized words in the examples below for these are the antiphrasis:
“Owen would just smile and eat his eggs, and maybe reach over and slap Ernie’s back and say, ‘That’s real funny, Ernie. You’re pretty clever.’ All the while thinking to himself, you moron. What do you know? … Which, of course, he couldn’t say out loud. He could think it, but he couldn’t say it. When you’re a public figure in a small town, you have to treat people with dignity, even Ernie Matthews …” – Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley
“I was awakened by the dulcet tones of Frank, the morning doorman, alternately yelling my name, ringing my doorbell, and pounding on my apartment door …” – Filthy Rich by Dorothy Samuels
“He looked like a Vulcan fresh emerged from his forge, a misshapen giant not quite sure of how to maneuver in this bright new world … His real name, the name given to him by his youthful mother before she abandoned him in a Brooklyn orphanage, was Thomas Theodore Puglowski, but his friends all called him Tiny … At least, Tiny supposed, they would if he had any friends …” – Oyster Blues by Michael McClelland
CASSIUS: “I did mark how he (Julius Caesar) did shake … t’is true this god did shake … His coward lips did from their color fly …” – Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
“Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard …”- The Unknown Citizen by W. H. Auden
“The counselor nodded sagely. ‘When did your husband first begin to exhibit quantum behavior?’ he asked.” – The First Session by Will Dowd
“It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was the thought of his immolation.” – The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
“I was awakened by the dulcet tones of Frank, the morning doorman, alternately yelling my name, ringing my doorbell, and pounding on my apartment door…” Filthy Rich by Dorothy Samuels
Antiphrasis can light up any dull and depressing conversation, as well as any written composition. We hope you found our examples to be fun and informative for you to apply antiphrasis for your own personal use.