Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A sudden change of events or reversal of circumstances, especially in a literary work.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a reversal of fortune; a sudden change in circumstances

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a sudden and unexpected change of fortune or reverse of circumstances (especially in a literary work)

Etymologies

Greek, from peripiptein, peripet-, to change suddenly : peri-, peri- + piptein, to fall; see pet- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek περιπέτεια, ultimately from περί ("round, around, about") + the stem of πίπτω ("to fall"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Were Cantor's failure and Murdoch's peripeteia inevitable?

    HuffPost Radio: Both Sides Now: Conservatives Play Defense on Debt Ceiling and Murdoch

  • I see what you're saying, but it certainly did cause me to reevaluate my initial impressions of the plot, which kinda-sorta feels like a twist, or at least some form of elaborate peripeteia.

    "Serpent!" screamed the Pigeon.

  • If the hammam were a Greek tragedy, and in some ways I think it is, this man's entry is the peripeteia, the moment of dramatic reversal that marks the beginning of catharsis.

    Why Syria scrubs up so well

  • He destroys the wonderful peripeteia of the original story, jettisons the power of the over-the-top surreal insanity by bestowing it on a minor character, and replaces it all with a fatalistic conclusion to a psycho-drama.

    Dread

  • Levin (1929-2007), best known for his novels "Rosemary's Baby" (1967) and "The Stepford Wives" (1972), had obviously mastered the principles of Aristotle's "Poetics," for Deathtrap abounds in "peripeteia" or sudden reversals of fortune.

    The Gothic Twist of an Intricate 'Deathtrap

  • We were instructed that life, like Greek plays, features peripeteia, or reversals of fortune.

    When Prudence Was a Virtue

  • The other word, peripeteia, that's the moment in the great tragedies, you know -- Euripides and Sophocles -- the moment where Oedipus has his moment, where he suddenly realizes that hot chick he's been sleeping with and having babies with is his mother.

    Mike Rowe celebrates dirty jobs

  • Now then for anagnorisis, comic peripeteia, division into acts, and the rest of the wallet!

    Two Sides of the Face Midwinter Tales

  • Such a [Greek: peripeteia], such a reversal of human conditions of being, as that now exhibited between the Eton lower boy uplifted to the luxurious gallery pew, and the head-master of Eton, whom I was accustomed to see in the roomy deck of the upper school with vacant space and terror all around him, it must be hard for any one to conceive, except the two who were the subjects of it.

    The Life of William Ewart Gladstone, Vol. 1 (of 3) 1809-1859

  • Rinaldo's combat with Orlando in the Christian camp furnishes an anagnorisis; while the plot is brought to its conclusion by the peripeteia of

    Renaissance in Italy, Volumes 1 and 2 The Catholic Reaction

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Comments

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  • Thank you, qroqqa! I was wondering about that, too.

    April 11, 2011

  • It's not often that I can't spell a word I should know, so here's a memorandum. 'Peripeteia' is from pet- "fall" (as in 'apoptosis' and 'diptote', both with the zero grade), and mnemonically it's what befalls characters in a narrative. It has no relation to what was confusing me, 'peripatetic' from pat- "walk, tread".

    August 14, 2008