We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Hysteron Proteron?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Hysteron proteron is a rhetorical technique used in some kinds of literature and other communications that involves reversing a chronological sequence to invert a phrase. This technique can be used for poetic effect, or in the construction of various idioms in a given language. It’s part of a larger category of rhetorical reversals that some call hyperbaton. The word hyperbaton comes from the Greek word for transposition.

As a kind of hyperbaton, hysteron proteron can be done simply to confuse an audience. This technique is sometimes part of a larger “circus type” method of communication that deliberately garbles speech by reversing words or phrases. This is not the only use for hysteron proteron, but it is a common one in its use in performance art. This kind of reversal contrasts to other more comprehensive uses of this technique in a communication or work of art.

Another use of hysteron proteron is in literature. Academics often point to the inclusion of this technique in the works of Homer, a renowned epic writer who penned the Odyssey, long considered a classic in literature. In this epic work, the author structures the narrative in a particular way to reverse chronological events. When writers do this in modern literature, or in film, the jumps in the narrative are popularly called “flashbacks” or “flashforwards.” This technique can be a compelling part of the modern narrative.

In some cases, hysteron proteron is simply idiomatic. One common example that is often given in English is someone saying they will put on their “shoes and socks.” Logically, the socks must be put on first. That’s why reversing the phrase and putting shoes before socks is a classic example of hysteron proteron, which in this case, seems to be done for optimizing language flow and possibly for idiomatic effect.

Many who study the phenomenon of hysteron proteron are pursuing its use in a greater narrative as discussed above. The emergence of more visual storytelling methods in the twenty-first century seem to complement ideas like the reversal of chronological events in telling a story. As the modern audience becomes more sophisticated in parsing narrative, it seems likely that hysteron proteron, and other similar techniques, will grow in popularity, where artists will use disordering of events to craft a more intriguing result.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.