Anaphora is an important rhetorical device for emphasizing concepts and ideas. But what is anaphora? Fear not, we’re going to explain anaphora by exploring a variety of anaphora examples. By the end, you’ll know how to recognize and utilize anaphora in writing.

Anaphora Examples in Literature & More

What is anaphora?

Anaphora is a rhetorical device that’s defined as “the repetition of a word, or a group of words at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences.” Anaphora is used by writers of various disciplines to emphasize certain words.

For example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is regarded as an example of anaphora because it includes the words “I have a dream” at the beginning of successive sentences.

Check out this next video for more insight on the tenets of anaphora.

Anaphora Examples Sentences  •  What is Anaphora? A Literary Guide by Oregon State University

It’s one thing to say anaphora exists across artistic forms – it’s another to prove it. So, without further ado, let’s break down some anaphora examples in music, literature, poetry, and more.


What A Wonderful World

Anaphora Examples  •  What A Wonderful World by Sam Cooke

In this example, Sam Cooke’s use of the phrase “don’t know much” is an anaphora. The added note in the fifth line breaks the rhythm, but arguably maintains the anaphora. Oh, and there’s also a great rhyme scheme to boot.

Don’t know much about history

Don’t know much biology 

Don’t know much about a science book

Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you

And I know that if you love me, too

What a wonderful world this would be”

Anaphora Examples in Poetry

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

Anaphora Examples in Poetry  •  The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’ great poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” uses anaphora to emphasize the phrase “I’ve known rivers.”

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins”

Example of Anaphora in Song Lyrics

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Anaphora Examples  •  Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

This next example from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell contains not only anaphora but epistrophe as well. The anaphora is the phrase “ain’t no” and the epistrophe is the word “enough.”

Ain't no mountain high enough,

Ain't no valley low enough, 

Ain't no river wide enough,

To keep me from getting to you, baby”

Anaphora Examples in Poetry

Sonnet 66

Anaphora Examples in Poetry  •  Sonnet 66, Posted by Socratica

William Shakespeare used anaphora in many of his works; Sonnet 66 is just one such example. Here, the word “and” is anaphora.

“Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,

As to behold desert a beggar born,

And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,

And purest faith unhappily forsworn,

And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,

And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,

And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,

And strength by limping sway disabled

And art made tongue-tied by authority,

And folly - doctor-like - controlling skill,

And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,

And captive good attending captain ill”

Anaphora Examples in Literature

A Tale of Two Cities

Anaphora Examples in Literature  •  A Tale of Two Cities, Narrated by AZ

The opening to Charles Dickens is regarded as more than one of the most famous examples of anaphora, it’s regarded as one of the most famous story openings of all time. Here, Dickens uses the phrase “it was” to transport us to the past. He then juxtaposes the imagery with opposing adjectives.

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.”

Anaphora Examples Sentences

Self Care

Anaphora Examples  •  Self Care

Hip hop artists utilize epistrophe a lot more than anaphora. That said, there are some great examples of anaphora in rap music. This example from Mac Miller’s “Self Care” uses anaphora to emphasize the artist’s deteriorating mental state.

“Yeah, I been readin' them signs,

I been losin' my,

I been losin' my,

I been losin' my mind”

Anaphora Rhetoric Examples

We Shall Fight on the Beaches

Anaphora Speech Examples  •  We Shall Fight on the Beaches Scene From The Darkest Hour

Anaphora has been used in speeches for hundreds of years. Arguably, the most famous use of anaphora in a speech can be found in Winston Churchill’s 1940 speech to the British House of Commons. The phrase “we shall” is used as an anaphora to rally the people behind a sense of unity. 

We shall not flag nor fail. 

We shall go on to the end. 

We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; 

We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. 

We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; 

We shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. 

We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.”

Anaphora Examples

Cape Fear

Anaphora Examples in Movies  •  Cape Fear

Robert De Niro’s “I can out-philosophize you” is a fairly famous movie quote – but did you know that it came place at the end of an anaphora? Turns out De Niro’s character Max Cady can out-do just about any mental task. The word “you” is also an example of epistrophe.

I can out-learn you.

I can out-read you.

I can out-think you.

And I can out-philosophize you.”


What is Repetition?

Anaphora is one type of repetition – there are a lot more. Want to learn more about repetition in writing? Check out our next article where we break down symploce, consonance, and more. We’ll also show you examples from artists like Beyonce and The Beatles. By the end, you’ll know a variety of different repetition techniques, and how to use them in your own works.

Up Next: Repetition Definition and Examples →
Solution Icon - Screenplay and Documents

Write and produce your scripts all in one place.

Write and collaborate on your scripts FREE. Create script breakdowns, sides, schedules, storyboards, call sheets and more.

Tags: , ,
  • Chris Heckmann is a Professor of Media & Communication at Roger Williams University and graduate of UCLA’s Cinema & Media Studies Master of Arts program. When he’s not writing or teaching, he’s probably playing video games (or thinking about the next great Boston sports trade).

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copy link