Adynaton (plural adynata) (from Greek: "a-": without and "dynasthai": to be powerful) is a figure of speech in the form of hyperbole taken to such extreme lengths as to suggest a complete impossibility:
*"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Book of Matthew 19:24
*"I will sooner have a beard grow in the palm of my hand than he shall get one of his cheek" Shakespeare Henry IV, Part 2

Classical and Medieval usage

Adynaton was a widespread literary and rhetorical device during the Classical Period and was known in Latin as "impossibilia". A frequent usage was to refer to one highly unlikely event occurring "sooner" than another:

:"One can expect an agreement between philosophers sooner than between clocks." Seneca, "The Pumpkinification of Claudius".

However it largely fell into disuse during the Middle Ages before undergoing a minor revival in the works of romantic poets, who would boast of the power of their love, and how it could never end.

: "Together, we shall sooner see, I, & you, The Rhône tarry, & reverse its course, The Saône roil, & return to source, Than this my fire ever die down" Maurice Scève

Fiction, folklore and drama

Adynata are sometimes used within works of fiction or drama:

::"Part heat from fire, then, by that notion,"::"Part frost from snow, wet from the ocean!"::"Ask less!" Henrik Ibsen, "Brand"

Impossible tasks appears often in legends and folklore, such as the tale of "The Spinning-Woman by the Spring", and can form elements of ballads, riddles and proverbs.

Modern usage

Adynaton has survived to the modern age in several colourful examples:
* "Pigs might fly!"
* "Not before Hell freezes over!"

See also

* 'Pataphysics

References and further reading

* [ Dictionary of poetic terms Myers, J., Wukasch, D.]
* [ Some Notes on the Adynaton in Medieval Literature]
*Ronald Grambo, "Adynaton Symbols in Proverbs. A Few Fragmentary Remarks" (s. 40-42). "Proverbium 15". Helsinki 1970.
*Martti Haavio, "Omöjlighetssymboler i finsk epik" (s. 73-83). Sed och Sägen 1956.
*Henrik Ibsens Skrifter "Brand". Peer Gynt. Universitetet i Oslo. H. Aschehoug & Co. (William Nygaard). Oslo 2007. ISBN 82-03-19002-2.

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  • Adynaton — L adynaton (substantif masculin), du grec ἀδύνατον adynaton (« impossible »), est une figure de style qui consiste en la répétition d hyperboles inconcevables aboutissant généralement à un effet humoristique. Elle est proche de l… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Adynaton — Mit Adynaton (altgriechisch von ἀδύνατος/ον (adynatos/on): unmöglich), Plural: Adynata, wird eine Aussage bezeichnet, in der jemand sagen will, dass etwas auf keinen Fall geschehen kann, dies aber indirekt zum Ausdruck bringt. Er sagt zum… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Adynaton — Ady|na|ton 〈n.; s, na|ta; Rhet.〉 Form der Begriffsumschreibung durch den Vergleich mit einer offensichtlichen Unmöglichkeit [grch., „das Unmögliche“] * * * Adynaton   [griechisch »das Unmögliche«] das, s/...ta, Stilistik: Form der Periphrase,… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Adynaton — Ady|na|ton das; s, ...ta <aus gr. adýnaton »das Schwache, das Unmögliche> Form der ↑Periphrase, bei der vergebliche Mühe durch Vergleich mit offenkundig Unmöglichem umschrieben wird, z. B. »Eher geht ein Kamel durch ein Nadelöhr...«… …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • adynaton — ▪ literature       a kind of hyperbole in which the exaggeration is so great that it refers to an impossibility, as in the following lines from Andrew Marvell (Marvell, Andrew) s “To His Coy Mistress”: Had we but world enough, and time This… …   Universalium

  • adynaton — noun A form of hyperbole that uses exaggeration so magnified as to express impossibility …   Wiktionary

  • adynaton — a·dy·na·ton s.m.inv. TS ret. spec. nella poesia classica: figura retorica che consiste nel subordinare l avverarsi di un fatto a un altro ritenuto impossibile {{line}} {{/line}} VARIANTI: adinato. DATA: 1955. ETIMO: dal gr. adúnaton cosa… …   Dizionario italiano

  • Adynaton — A|dy|na|ton 〈n.; Gen.: s, Pl.: ta; Rhet.〉 Form der Begriffsumschreibung durch den Vergleich mit einer offensichtlichen Unmöglichkeit [Etym.: grch., »das Unmögliche«] …   Lexikalische Deutsches Wörterbuch

  • adynaton —    (s.m.) anche adùnaton Figura retorica che sottolinea, servendosi di una perfirasi a carattere iperbolico e paradossale, l impossibilità che una cosa avvenga, subordinando per l appunto il suo avverarsi ad un altro fatto ritenuto impossibile .… …   Dizionario di retorica par stefano arduini & matteo damiani

  • Hyperbole (rhetorique) — Hyperbole (rhétorique) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Hyperbole. L hyperbole (substantif féminin), du grec hyperbolê, de hyper (« au delà ») et ballein (« jeter ») est une figure de style consistant à exagérer l expression… …   Wikipédia en Français

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