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See also: Chiasmus



From Latin chiasmus, from Ancient Greek χιασμός (khiasmós), from χιάζω (khiázō, to mark with a chi), from χ (kh, chi)


  • IPA(key): /kaɪˈæzməs/
  • (file)


chiasmus (countable and uncountable, plural chiasmi or chiasmuses)

  • To stop too fearful, and too faint to go
    Oliver Goldsmith
  • haec queritur, stupet haec (this woman complains, this one gapes)
    Ovid, Ars Amatoria, 1.124.
  • Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
    John Keats
  • Do not live to eat, but eat to live.
  1. (rhetoric) An inversion of the relationship between the elements of phrases.
    • 1934, H. H. Walker & N. W. Lund "The Literary Structure of the Book of Habakkuk", Journal of Biblical Literature 53 (4): 355.
      The book of Habakkuk has been discovered to consist of a closely knit chiastic structure throughout. This is the first poem of such length to stand revealed as a literary unit of this kind, though chiasmus has already been discovered throughout many psalms []
    • 1984, Ethel Grodzins Romm, "Persuasive Writing", American Bar Association Journal 70: 158.
      John F. Kennedy is more famous for his chiasmus than for many of his policies:
      "Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country."
    • 2002, Simon R. Slings, "Figures of Speech in Aristophanes", in Andreas Willi (editor), The Language of Greek Comedy, pages 103-104
      Leeman therefore holds that chiasmus is the basic order in Greek and Latin: antithesis is, he claims, normal for the modern, rational mind, but for the Greeks and Romans chiasmus was more natural.
    • 2009, Seyed Ghahreman Safavi & Simon Weightman, Rūmī's Mystical Design: Reading the Mathnawī, Book One, page 46:
      The realization that Mawlānā was using parallelism and chiasmus to organize the higher levels of his work has been a major surprise.

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