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  • Parodied in Aesir: Cross Wars. "That makes no sense." or any variant of it is uttered by just about everyone, and for good reason, too.
  • The Age of Fire series makes good use of this. AuRon, Wistala, and the Copper have "adapt", "improvise", and "overcome" in each of their respective books. Dragon Strike, the first book to focus on all three siblings, then uses these words as the titles of the three sections of the book.
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  • In the Quirk Classics parody novel Android Karenina, the narrative keeps returning to the lines from Countess Nordston's prophecy of the Honored Guests, namely "they will come for us in three ways." Eventually, it becomes clear that the three ways are actually the stages of an Alien Invasion.
  • Voices, the second Annals of the Western Shore book, has Memer and the other people of Ansul invoke the god Lero frequently. She describes the day she met Orrec and Gry as a day of Lero, and the Waylord refers to Lero to try and temper Rebel Leader Desac's eagerness to fight. We're not told until chapter 10 that Lero is the god of balance. In the end, it's with a balanced approach, not outright rebellion or outright conquest, that Ansul and the Alds deal with each other.
  • "Who is John Galt?" from Atlas Shrugged. He's the unnamed figure in every story that anyone tells to Dagny before she meets him.
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  • Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville: "I'd prefer not to."
  • Belisarius Series: "In the end, only the soul matters". One of the main things leading to the downfall of the Big Bad is its inability to understand the human soul.
  • The Bell Jar: "I am, I am, I am."
  • In its original Hebrew, The Bible makes use of this trope, making it Older Than Feudalism. Due to the nature of the Hebrew language, which can use the same root word with different suffixes and prefixes to mean any number of different things, this effect is used very flexibly and is often not picked up in translation.
    • Book of Judges: "In those days Israel had no King. Everyone did as he pleased".
    • Books of Kings: "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof."
  • The Black Company series had a number of these, especially near the end. They even became the names of two of the novels, Water Sleepsnote  (which in context means "Revenge is coming") and Soldiers Live ("and wonder why", referring to survivor's guilt).
  • In Blackout, particularly Polly's sections: "How all occasions do inform against me." (from Hamlet)
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  • Bridge of Birds has "Jade plate, Six, eight. Fire that burns hot, Night that is not. Fire that burns cold, First silver, then gold."
  • The main Arc Words in the Broken Sky series? The title. Mentioned only once in dialogue, the Broken Sky myth tells the story of how the now-separate worlds of Kirin Taq and the Dominions were once unified, until an unknown event caused the sky to break, sundering the world into two halves.
  • A Brother's Price has the "shining coin" metaphor, though it's mostly limited to the Whistler family.
  • Callahan's Crosstime Saloon: "Shared pain is lessened, shared joy increased."
  • In Catch-22, the title phrase is used to explain almost anything that uses circular logic, or just doesn't make sense.
    • Also, any time Snowden is mentioned, with more and more context being revealed about him each time...
  • The Chronicles of Magravandias: "It will happen regardless of what you think or do."
  • In Chuck Palahniuk's works, he has his characters use arc words he refers to as "choruses." Most notably, "Birds ate my face" in Invisible Monsters.
    • Fight Club: "I know this because Tyler knows this."
    • Haunted: "Onstage, instead of a spotlight — a movie fragment..."
    • Chuck also seems to have a fondness for cornflower blue, as references to the color appear at least once in each of his novels.
  • A Clockwork Orange is divided to three parts, which all begin to the sentence "What's it gonna be then, eh?" It also appears several other times.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: "Wait and Hope."
  • "In the Country of the Blind, the One-eyed Man is King," from H. G. Wells's short story The Country of the Blind. These Arc Words are a paraphrase of Erasmus; Wells's story gives them an ironic connotation as the protagonist repeatedly fails to prove the superiority of his sightedness in a Lost World inhabited entirely by blind people.
  • Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny: "Skagganauk Abyss" and variations occur several times throughout the book before its nature and ultimate purpose is revealed.
  • The purpose behind Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. The words are "Trystero", "WASTE" (apparently an acronym for "We Await Silent Trystero's Empire"), "DEATH" ("Don't Ever Antagonize The Horn"), and a picture of a muted postal horn (trumpet). The best part, though, is that we never find out if it means anything.
  • Dark Future: Has meta-arc words, "Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock." Jessamyn Bonney is possessed by the Ancient Adversary, a spirit being dedicated to opposing the coming of the Dark Ones and the End of the World as We Know It this will cause, that Big Bad Elder Seth is actively seeking. When the two establish a Psychic Link by accident, Jessamyn manifests in Seth's mind as these words. The form the Ancient Adversary most commonly takes in the spirit world? A giant crocodile. Also represents the ticking away of time until the end of the world.
    "Krokodil, what's this about?"
    "Using black magic and blacker science...they're trying to take over the sky."
    "The sky? That can't be...like the man said...the sky belongs to the stars!"
    Elvis and Krokodil Comeback Tour
  • In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's novel Oath of Fealty, "Think of it as evolution in action" is explicitly developed as this.
  • The Deltora Quest series has certain passages from The Belt Of Deltora that keep coming up and eventually prove important to the plot, most notably "each Gem has its own power, but together the seven make a spell far more powerful than the sum of its parts. Only the Belt of Deltora, complete as it was first fashioned by Adin and worn by Adin's true heir has the power to defeat the Enemy", "the Enemy is clever and sly, and to its anger and envy a thousand years is like the blink of an eye" and "So he wore the Belt always, and never let it out of his sight" (the latter two also being repeated in the narrative). The Shadow Lord's "I never have just one plan. I have many plans. I have plans within plans" also comes up a lot.
    • Deltora Shadowlands has the song "Above our land the tumult rages/Struggle echoes through the ages/There the strife may never cease/But here below we dwell in peace/Where timeless tides swamp memory/Our sunless prison makes us free/the Gem-Glow lights our rocky walls/And dragons guard our shining halls", a Plume folk song stuck in Doran's head even after they wiped his memory.
    • Dragons of Deltora has the poem "Sisters Four with poisoned breath/Bring to the Land a long, slow death/But death comes swiftly if you dare/To find each Sister's hidden lair/Their songs like secret rivers flow/To hold the peril deep below/And if at last their voices cease/The Land will find a final peace".
    • Finally, the Tales of Deltora book has "And so the Land waited, biding its time".
  • The Dinosaur Lords has:
    • "The most powerful weapon of a dinosaur knight was his mount."
    • "A Grey Angel has emerged." or just "Grey Angels".
  • Several from Terry Pratchett's Discworld, such as:
    • Mort: "There is no justice. There is just me."
    • The Truth: "The Truth Will Make You Free!" (often with "free" misspelled, as in "the truth shall make you fret") and "A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on." William de Worde says to the Big Bad:
    "The truth has got its boots on. It's about to start kicking." SPOILER 
    • The Fifth Elephant: "It is the thing, and the whole of the thing."
    • Thud!: "Mr. Shine, Him diamond!" "The battle of Koom Valley" is a Running Gag through the whole series, until it's explained in Thud.
    • Small Gods: "The turtle moves!" and "Here and now, we're alive."
    • Interesting Times: Cohen the barbarian keeps telling Rincewind and others they meet that "We're gonna steal something" They're actually planning on stealing the entire kingdom by murdering the Emperor
    • I Shall Wear Midnight: "The hare runs into the fire." "Poison goes where poison's welcome."
    • Night Watch: "All the little angels.../How do they rise up..."
    • An example of Arc Words for the entire series is the phrase "all things strive." Some examples:
  • The Divine Comedy: "Stars." Every canticle of the poem ends with that word as a sign of Dante's ever-increasing proximity to God, who is represented by the stars in keeping with the Light Is Good and Heaven Above tropes.
  • In Dopamine, Danny often says, "Let's make it happen." It follows the story's motif of converting thought into action.
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles has "Sometimes", generally used as an enigmatic answer when questions are asked. Sometimes.
  • In The Dresden Files story Aftermath, Murphy's Survival Mantra crosses over with this trope: "I can't believe he's dead." And through out the series "Hell's Bells" "Stars and Stones" and "Empty Night" have been used as curses and have been confirmed used as such due to what they imply which will be explained in the Three apocalyptic novels which will close out the series using all three of those curses as their titles.
  • In the Dune series, there are stylized speeches and oft-repeated phrases, such as the Litany Against Fear. However, the phrase "The Golden Path" is an example of Arc Words, signifying Leto's long-term plan. Also Paul's constant use of the term "Terrible purpose".
    • "The sleeper must awaken".
    • "Circles within circles."
  • The Eighth Doctor Adventures has the word 'interference', which crops up a great deal during the War in Heaven arc, and then moderately afterwords. At different points it refers to different things, such as signal interference from radio/cell phone broadcasts to interference from the Doctor's TARDIS causing Compassion to become one. Interestingly enough, another one of the important concepts the word embodies is the idea of interference in events; specifically, how it's the Doctor's MO, outright defying Gallifrey's Alien Non-Interference Clause. Author of the oh-so-subtly-titled novel Interference Lawrence Miles picked up on the fact that the word is tossed around quite a bit in Doctor Who as a whole.
  • An Elegy for the Still-living: "Our Situation" and the variants thereof.
  • Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer: "I will... I will..."
  • In Fahrenheit 451, "Consider the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin..."
  • In The Fault in Our Stars, Gus and Hazel coin "Okay? Okay." as their own personal arc words.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust has the running refrain of "Art is long, life is short", which is the theme of the book, the conflict between the infinite mental capacity of man versus the limitations of his physical body.
  • In Fingerprints, the name "Erika Keaton", which the heroes are puzzled by until The Reveal in Book 6.
  • In The Full Matilda, the various Housewright Maxims are this. Usually this is used to show how the family serves others instead of themselves.
  • Glamorama: "Let's slide down the surface of things".
  • The Go-Between: Delenda est belladona: the deadly nightshade (or beautiful woman) must be destroyed.
  • The words "copper," "silver," and "gold," in that order, are in many of the dialogues of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid until the big reveal that they stand for an imaginary book with a parallel structure to the one you are reading, serving to illustrate the theme of indirect self-reference.
  • The Golden Age by John C. Wright: "Deeds of renown without peer."
  • The Gone series has "Hungry in the dark."
    • For Astrid in Plague: A simple act of murder...
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith: "And that was our day. You know what I mean," (which eventually end up being the final words of the book) and variants. While there are quite a few recurring phrases throughout the novel, this one holds the most significance, especially in the epilogue, where the theme of the bison comes full circle.
  • Also from The Graveyard Book, "Sleep, my little babby-oh..." Mrs. Owens only remembers the last part of the song as she's saying goodbye to Bod forever at the end of the story when Bod leaves the graveyard.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: Offred finds a phrase carved in the back of a closet that says "Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum," which is (mostly incorrect) latin for "Don't let the bastards get you down."
  • Harry Potter: "You have your mother's eyes."
    • "The Order of the Phoenix" is mentioned several times before it's finally explained what it is. Also, "Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs" might count as single-book Arc Words, since they're also mentioned many times before it's revealed what they refer to.
    • Also "Neither can live while the other survives."
    • "I open at the close."
  • Madame Zeroni's lullaby in Holes.
  • The Horus Heresy books have "I can't say", particularly in the first three books. If those words get dropped, something secret, devious, and probably evil is almost certainly happening.
  • Hours: "Shimmerings"
  • "Delial" and "House" from House of Leaves.
    • Only Revolutions by the same author has several of these (none of which are ever really explained), with "always sixteen" and "everyone loves the dream but I kill it" (and variants) probably cropping up most frequently.
    • These are made even more obvious by being typeset differently: "House" (in better copies) appears in blue text and a slight offset and "Minotaur" in red (and is frequently, if not always, struck out).
  • The Hunger Games has "May the odds be ever in your favor" and "the girl on fire" or some variation of the two. Catching Fire introduces the phrase "Remember who the enemy is."
  • The Illuminatus! Trilogy and Masks of the Illuminati have an odd tendency to latch on to random, irrelevant words, phrases, names, and images that appear early on and turn them into Arc Words, and in fact, accumulate Arc Words over time. In the end, some of them are Justified as being connected, in some round about way, to Illuminati, Discordian, Rosicrucian, or Kabbalistic symbolism, although most turn out to really just be random and irrelevant. Given how mindscrewy and postmodern the novel is, this is only to be expected.
  • The Impairment: Has "Bottoms Up", initially used by psychiatrist Allie Parker to Kyle Griffin which she suggests he tell himself before having himself a drink to relax his nerves and release the stress he feels from being framed for the murder of his roommate. Needless to say a sharp reader will quickly catch on Kyle is in a slightly altered state of mind upon saying the words after Allie's suggestion.
  • John Dies at the End: "I serve none but Korrok."
    • "They haunt minds."
    • "Bred for war."
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles "Seven words."
  • In several of Kurt Vonnegut's works, "So it goes." and "Tralfamadorians".
    • There's virtually one per book. They include the Trout's sermon ("You were sick, but now you're well again, and there's work to do") in Timequake, "And so on" in Breakfast of Champions (as well as the title itself and recounting penis lengths of every male character), "chronosynchastic infindibulum" in The Sirens of Titan, and the various Bokoninist lines in Cat’s Cradle (eg. "Busy, busy, busy"). "So it goes" is from Slaughterhouse-Five.
    • "Blue and ivory feet", also from Slaughterhouse-Five.
      • Also, "mustard gas and roses", and "unstuck in time".
  • Kushiel's Legacy:
    • "That which yields is not always weak." Spoken as a foretelling about Phedre and brought up frequently after, the words serve as the theme for her character and books.
    • Elua's commandment - "Love as thou wilt" - is brought up often and serves as a theme for the series as a whole.
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover
    "For the bonds of love are ill to loose."
  • Little House on the Prairie
    "Everything is evened up in the end. The rich have their ice in the summer but the poor get theirs in the winter."
  • Looking for Alaska
    • "I go to seek a Great Perhaps."
    • "How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?"
    • "Straight and fast," a possible answer to the above question.
    • "To be continued."
  • The Lorax has one simple word that serves as this: "UNLESS".
  • The Lost Fleet has a solely in-universe example. Tanya captains the starship Dauntless, which bears the motto "Never Despair." In Dauntless Darkest Hour, she thought the words were mocking her...then she met John Geary, and she never despaired again. Since Tanya isn't the narrator, we only hear about the words' importance secondhand.
    • The words have additional, retroactive symbolism in that Dauntless and the fleet it leads save the Alliance from being conquered, when all hope had been lost.
  • The Machineries of Empire: "Yours in calendrical heresy, Vh."
  • The Maze Runner Trilogy: "WICKED is good".
  • The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin has "Give me back my hat."
  • Midnight’s Children has a bunch, though usually embedded in the narration or in descriptions rather than as an explicit component of the world. There is "history", "time", and "inheritance"; FULL-TILT!; the "optimism disease"; pomfrets; snakes and ladders; "the blue of Kashmiri sky"; "Knees and a nose, a nose and knees..."; "What can't be cured must be endured"; and, of course, "midnight".
  • Minecraft The Island has "Panic drowns thought," a self-motivating phrase used to keep cool under pressure.
  • The Mortal Instruments:
    • City of Bones has "all the stories are true."
  • Never Let Me Go has a song (called ''Never Let Me Go''). The refrain "Never let me go, never let me go, oh baby, baby, never let me go" is repeated many times over the course of the story, subtly changing meaning as time progresses.
  • Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves: "And God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Book of Revelation, Chapter 21).
  • In "Crux", the second book of The Nexus Series, "Are you wiser than all of Humanity?" comes back to Kade again and again. This question was put to him by Ananda in the first book, and summarizes Kade's uncertainty as to whether he has a right to use the backdoor he installed in Nexus 5 at all. It comes full circle when he puts the question to Shiva, who also wants the back door and is arguably smarter than Kade while just as well meaning. If Shiva doesn't have a right, neither does Kade, so Kade resolves to close the backdoor for good and all.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four:
    • "Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clements...Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head!"
      • The phrase is referenced in Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Knowing the reference makes it even more chilling.
      • This phrase is also referenced in Silent Hill: Origins. Except that it is changed to read "Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes the butcher to chop off your head!"
    • The three Party slogans:
      • "Big Brother is watching you" (verifying the accuracy of this statement is arguably the point of the narrative).
      • "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength" (which is ultimately explained by Goldstein's book).
      • "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past" (which is explained in detail by O'Brien in the novel's third act).
    • "We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness."
      • Which turns out to be the Ministry of Love
    • "Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me..."
    • "DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER".
    • "Two plus two equals five".
    • "If there is hope, it must lie in the Proles".
  • In Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series, the saying "Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?" is frequently repeated. The words come from The Book of the Dead, a very dark volume about necromancy that happens to be required reading for every Abhorsen, so it makes sense that a necromancer, an extremely powerful Charter Mage, or some other person of importance would know them.
  • Tad Williams' Otherland features a significant and enigmatic character who keeps repeating, "An angel touched me."
  • The Outsiders has "Stay Gold" and also "Things are rough all over" to some extent
  • Paper Towns has, in addition to the title, "All the strings broke" and the adjective "Cracked," which is used to describe several things.
  • The Pendragon Adventure: "This is the way it was meant to be."
    • Bobby also starts ending his later journals with "And so we go."
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower: "I felt infinite" and variations.
  • Pet Sematary: "Sometimes, dead is better."
  • Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner: "Om Mani Padme Hum", translated as "Om, jewel in the lotus, hum". This is the Trigger Phrase of the demonic transformations, and it is written on the gates of The Church of the Arbiters of Karma.
  • The Raven: "Quoth the Raven 'Nevermore.'"
  • The Reader (2016) has "This is a book". Fitting, since books and writing itself are completely alien concepts to most of the people in the setting.
  • Requiem for a Dream: "Come."
  • Revanche Cycle: "I will not be silent," and "I am my father's daughter."
  • Rewind (Terry England) introduces its main character with "I am Aaron Lee Fairfax. I am forty-three years old. I am married to Janessa, but she wants a divorce. I work for Thagg, Morgan, and Edwards Brokerage Group in Kansas City, Missouri. I own a Maserati." Throughout the novel, this is repeated several times, updating to reflect his current status.
  • Robert A. Heinlein had a few:
  • Probably the only memorable thing about Ira Levin's execrable sequel to his excellent Rosemary's Baby, Son Of Rosemary. Throughout the book, various characters josh around about how long it takes to solve the riddle "ROAST MULES" with the clue "Any five- or six-year-old might do this every day." The answer is somersaults. Rosemary seemingly awakens from sleep thinking it was All Just a Dream — that's the entire story, first book and sequel. This is where most people toss the book down in disgust. In the final paragraphs, though, it turns into Or Was It a Dream?? Rosemary's friend Hutch telephones, and at the very end of the conversation he casually tosses off how long it took him to solve "roast mules". This tells Rosemary that everything that happened in her "dream" was real, that her now-nonexistent son has pulled off the ultimate sacrifice to save the world, and that she'd better be damned (yeah) careful about where she and her husband move.
  • The Secret Garden: "The Magic" and "I shall live for ever and ever!"
  • In Secrets Of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Marethyu is always claiming to be Death. Gains a meaning (sort of) when Josh becomes Marethyu and destroys Danu Talis he shouts the last words written in the Codex: " Now I am become Death, the Destroyer Of Worlds"
    • The two who are one. The one that is all. One to save the world, one to destroy it.
  • The initials V.F.D. and later J.S., in A Series of Unfortunate Events, as well as various names and phrases that begin with them.
    • Also, "The world is quiet here," "The last safe place," and "I didn't realize this was a sad occasion" count as well.
  • Snow Crash has, well "Snow Crash," a phrase which gets dropped several times in several different contexts before finally getting elaborated on.
  • In the novel Some Other Place. The Right Place by Harington, the phrase "some other place" appears repeatedly throughout, followed by "the right place", usually on the opposite page.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is crawling with these.
    • All the noble houses have words that they live by. "We Do Not Sow" (Greyjoy), "Fire And Blood" (Targaryen), and "Ours Is The Fury" (Baratheon) are just a few.
    • The words of House Stark "Winter is Coming", which is often repeated and seems to foretell the return of the Others, as well as the general chaos that unfolds throughout the series.
    • The phase "A Lannister always pays his debts" is better known than the Lannisters' official words "Hear Me Roar".
    • Valar morghulis ("all men must die") and valar dohaeris ("all men must serve"), the code-phrases-cum-mottos of the Faceless Men.
    • From A Game of Thrones there's "wake the dragon" which is first said as a threat by Viserys but then comes to have a whole new meaning by the end of the book. Later his sister Daenerys' arc words are "If I look back I am lost" and "I am only a young girl who knows little about war...".
    • Ygritte's oft-repeated assertion, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," is relayed to Jon many times as he travels with the wildlings and many of his preconceived notions are shattered. It becomes his mantra of self-doubt for several books to come. They are also Ygritte's Famous Last Words. "Kill the boy. Let the man be born." is also mentioned several times.
    • Northerners tend to say "There must always be a Stark in Winterfell" or some variation thereof and they will do anything to keep it that way.
    • The song of Tyrion's wife Tysha which still haunts him. "I loved a maid as fair as summer, with sunlight in her hair" reflects his heartbreak and disappointment that no one will love him for who he is. In book 5, Tyrion often thinks about "wherever whores go", referring to the fact he thought Tysha was a paid whore. Tywin first uttered those words in book 3 when Tyrion asked where his wife went, thus hitting Tyrion's Berserk Button.
    • Daenerys is told in the House of the Undying that "The Dragon has three heads". She also hears about "The Song of Ice and Fire"
    • "A thousand eyes, and one" for Bloodraven, who is a spymaster and lost an eye in battle. The thousand eyes are actually the eyes of ravens that he skinchanges into, though no one knows that except Bran and his companions.
    • Bran Stark is told to "Fly" by a three eyed crow.
    • There are two religious mantras repeated by the followers of that religion. For the Ironborn, who worship the Drowned God, its "What is dead may never die, but rises again harder and stronger." For followers of the Lord of Light its "The night is dark and full of terrors."
    • After months of horrific torture at the hands Ramsey Snow, Theon's often thinks to himself "Reek, Reek, it rhymes with X" and "You have to know your name."
    • The Tales of Dunk and Egg, the words "Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall" appear whenever Dunk makes a mistake, often said by Dunk himself.
    • His sister's last words "Promise me, Ned" haunted Eddard until he died.
    • "The Dragons are dead", but of course they aren't.
    • "Song" is an Unusual Euphemism for the power of words, ideas, rumours and/or magic — sometimes a quite direct one: the Wandering Minstrel is alive and well, with both their dissemination and distortion of all of the above being a prominent thing. However, there is also the song of ice, the song of earth, the song of fire, the possible Rhoynar songs of water, the moonsingers, the songs sung by the weirwoods... There are quite a few songs that aren't music, as such, but still are important spreading of information leading to actions.
    • On a similar note is the reoccurring use of "dance" in the context of fighting and warfare. The Dance of the Dragons, the offer to "dance with me" and so on. The link between "dancing" and "singing" can be quite close, if you take the story of the hammer of the waters at face value.
    • Some words have less plot/symbolic relevance than other examples, but get repeated often because they are idioms people say in daily life.
      • "Dark wings, dark words", whenever someone sends bad news by raven. And, a lot of the news ain't good, so there is just cause. However, the white ravens are no better: by A Dance with Dragons, everybody and their dog in the Seven Kingdoms is beginning to dread the appearance of the white ravens that will tell them that winter has definitively landed... just in time to make everything even more complicated. The Citadel takes their sweet time sending them out.
      • "Words are wind", referring to how often people lie and break their vows.
  • Stephen Marley's Spirit Mirror has Chia, Black Dragon Sorceress, the amnesiac Action Girl heroine, asking herself: "What happened in Egypt?" We never really find out what happened in Egypt until the next book, though. Similarly, the sequel, Mortal Mask, has Chia pondering her long-lost Egyptian lover's enigmatic plea of "Forgive me".
  • John Irving loves this trope. There are several in The Hotel New Hampshire.
    • "Sorrow floats."
    • "Keep passing the open windows."
  • In Stephen King's The Shining, Danny kept seeing the word "REDRUM" before he realized it was "MURDER" spelled backwards.
    • Also, "It's time to take your medicine," "And the Red Death held sway over all," "Unmask! Unmask!"
    • Also from Stephen King: The Dark Tower series has multitudes, including constant mention of towers, roses, keys, and ka. These words and images start popping up in many of his other books, too.
      • "The world has moved on."
      • "Remember the face of your father."
    • The number 19 is very important too.
    • It: "He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts." This is a tip of the hat by Stephen King to Curt Siodmak's story "Donovan's Brain."
      • Also "The Turtle can't help you."
      • "We all float down here," and several variations thereof.
    • Misery: "Rinse."
      • "Can you, Paulie? Can you?"
      • "My tale is told."
    • In The Langoliers: "SHOOTING STARS ONLY."
    • In The Dark Half: "The sparrows are flying again."
    • 11/22/63 has "life turns on a dime," "Jimla," and the children's jump-rope rhyme "Charlie Chaplin went to France, just to watch the ladies dance! Salute to the Cap'n! Salute to the Queen! My old man drives a submarine!" The prevalence of Arc Words is explained by its own set of Arc Words, "the past harmonizes."
    • In Bag of Bones: "Are these the voices of our dead friends, or is it just the radio?"
    • In Desperation: "God is Cruel."
    • In Revival: "Something happened."
    • In Insomnia: "It's a long walk back to Eden, sweetheart, so don't sweat the small stuff."
    • In Carrie: "Flex."
      • "Pig blood for a pig."
    • In Salem’s Lot, the poem "The Emperor of Ice Cream" serves as arc words.
    • In The Stand, "No great loss."
    • Pet Sematary has a few.
    • In Dolores Claiborne: "Sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hold on to."
  • The Southern Reach Trilogy:
    • The Crawler's writing, which reads like a warped, vaguely sinister version of a Bible passage is repeated throughout the trilogy: Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead...
    • "Terroir" is a word that comes up a lot in connection to the mystery of Area X, but ends up being used for any given environmental conditions that exist in a given area, with Control thinking how the Southern Reach and Control are terroirs in their own right. Since there's obviously something off with the environment in Area X, the word takes on a sinister connotation, and Control even mishears it as "terror" when Whitby first uses it.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • The First Ideal of the Knights Radiant: "Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination."
    • "Honor is dead."
    • "Find the most important words a man can say."
    • "Say the Words."
    • In Oathbringer - "What is the most important step a man can take?" Answer: The next one. Always the next one.
    • In Edgedancer - "Listen."
  • The Subject Steve has a few; Fine fettle, Mothered by fire, Fuckeroo'd...
  • Tangled Web, by Crista McHugh: "You'll never find a knot you can't unravel." The protagonist hears this in her childhood from a soothsayer she gave water to, and the sentence is applied to many situations over the course of the story.
  • Search for the Nile: The book opens with the protagonist reading the words "Buala Matari" on Henry Morton Stanley's grave; for most of the book, he's trying to find out what these words mean, thinking it may be something relevant to his quest. Turns out, it isn't.note 
  • In These Words Are True and Faithful, references to the Bible verses about knowing every tree by its fruit.
  • Philip K. Dick's Ubik, especially. Ubik varies from chapter to chapter, finally culminating in Ubik declaring itself as God.
    • Also, "The Empire never ended", from several of his later works.
    • One of the most elaborate and subtle examples in the works of Philip Dick is the Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. The concept of love (meaning profound attraction and dire, unconditional need for SOMEONE or even ANYONE beside) is never explicitly stated or talked about in the book. Nevertheless, the seemingly unimportant and appendix-like part where the writer tells of the character's life after the events, ends with the sentence "And loved.". Although it relates to the clay vase irrelevant to the plot, the word "loved" connects with the rest of the novel in ways unimaginable. Dick manages to sum up all the (painfully building) moral and emotional tensions throughout the WHOLE NOVEL in this sentence. Just read it.
    • A Scanner Darkly: "If I'd known it was harmless I'd have killed it myself."
  • In The Underland Chronicles, certain phrases from the various Prophecies get repeated over and over again in the story before it's revealed what they mean:
    • "Two Over, two Under, of royal descent, two Crawlers, two Fliers, two Spinners ascent, one Gnawer beside, one lost up ahead, and 8 will be left when we count up the dead" from the Prophecy Of Grey in Gregor the Overlander.
    • "Die the baby, die his heart, die his most important part" from the Prophecy Of Bane in Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane.
    • "Turn and turn and turn again, you see the what but not the when", "Remedy and wrong intwine and so they form a single vine" and "If the flames of war are fanned, all Warmbloods lose the Underland" from the Prophecy Of Blood in Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods.
    • "Father, mother, sister, brother, off they go, I do not know if we shall see another" from the Prophecy Of Secrets in Gregor and the Marks of Secret.
    • "What she saw, it is the flaw, in the Code Of Claw" and "When the Monster's blood is spilled, when the Warrior has been killed" from the Prophecy Of Time in Gregor and the Code of Claw.
  • Unsong: "They enslave their children's children who make compromise with sin."
    • "This is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence" — fans have taken to abbreviating this to TINACBNIEAC.
  • Victoria has a quote from the German general Hans von Seeckt, which returns in many contexts and summarizes much of the book's message: Das Wesentliche ist die Tat. (Roughly, "The essential thing is the deed itself.")
  • ''Warrior Cats': "Water can quench fire". Some of the prophecies count as well.
    • Original Series: "Fire alone can save our Clan" and later "Four will become two, Lion and Tiger will meet in battle and Blood will rule the Forest". It wasn't a prophecy, but "Pack, Pack, Kill, Kill" in A Dangerous Path.
    • The New Prophecy: "Darkness, Air, Water and Sky will come together and shake the Forest to its very roots. Nothing will be as it was or as it has been." and later "Before there is peace, blood will spill blood, and the lake will run red."
    • Power of Three: "There will be three, kin of your kin, who hold the power of the stars in their paws." (First appeared chronologically in Firestar's Quest and continues through to Omen Of The Stars)
    • Omen of the Stars: "After the sharp-eyed Jay and the roaring Lion, peace will come on Dove's soft wing" and then "The end of the stars draws near. Three must become four, to battle the darkness that lasts forever."
  • "The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. In one Age, called the Third Age by some..."
    • Also "The Wheel weaves as The Wheel wills."
    • The various prophecies told to Mat by the Snakes may also qualify. "To marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons." in particular.
    • The first book has "The Dark One is going to blind the Eye of the World."
  • Wicked Lovely: "There are always choices".
  • Moon Rising: "Stay secret, stay hidden, stay safe." It refers to Secretkeeper and Darkstalker's belief that other dragons will hurt Moon if she reveals her telepathic abilities. Moon's character arc is largely defined by her rejection of these words.
  • In Gabriel King's The Wild Road, along with the alchemical theme, there is "as above, so below".
  • The Witchlands: the rhyme about the fool brother Filip leading his blind brother Daret into the Crab Queen's lair shows up at several points in the second book, with Merik wondering which of the brothers he is.
  • The WondLa books, especially Search, have the titular phrase and its possible meanings as a driving point.
  • Various forms of "you weren't there" are used throughout World War Z; sometimes to explain hysterical actions, sometimes to point out just how mundane simple descriptions of insane events actually are.
  • In the 32nd instalment of Piers Anthony's Xanth series, Two to the Fifth, the title is brought up numerous times throughout the book, and its meaning is not revealed until the last fifth or so of the book.
    • In the fourth book, Centaur Aisle, the title is a repeated spoken hint to the main character — leaving him to wonder what "centre isle" is supposed to mean. The words make no sense until Arnolde Centaur's magic talent is revealed.
    • Heaven Cent — "Skeleton Key to Heaven Cent."

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