from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A rhetorical inversion of the second of two parallel structures, as in

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In rhetoric, the arrangement of repeated, parallel, or contrasted words or phrases in two pairs, the second of which reverses the order of the first: as, do not live to eat, but eat to live; or as in the following quotation

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Rhet.) An inversion of the order of words or phrases, when repeated or subsequently referred to in a sentence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun rhetoric An inversion of the relationship between the elements of phrases.

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

  • noun inversion in the second of two parallel phrases


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

[New Latin chīasmus, from Greek khīasmos, syntactic inversion, from khīazein, to invert or mark with an X; see chiasma.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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


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  • Had this been said by Gucci Mane, I'd use it as further evidence of his learning disability. hey i learned the word chiasmus posted by

    MetaFilter 2010

  • But they slipped the code-word "chiasmus" into their conversation so that I could identify them.

    SBL (Secret Bibliobloggers' League): A Top Secret Debriefing on the 2009 Annual Meeting in New Orleans James F. McGrath 2009

  • But they slipped the code-word "chiasmus" into their conversation so that I could identify them.

    Archive 2009-11-01 James F. McGrath 2009

  • In many pages of protracted rumination, Corngold intermixed his own insights with already enigmatic passages from Kafka, thus producing (often specious) effects of "chiasmus" yielding a "boundless field of incessant metaphorical exchange" (p. 121), a "free play between given metaphors which accommodates new metaphors at the same time that it robs each of determinate meaning" (p. 123), and "a movement of thought that spirals on through endless reversals" (p. 153).

    'Kafka Up Close': An Exchange Corngold, Stanley 2005

  • Allegorizing poetic presence, Coleridge not only suggests that sound, like light, is a powerline through the air; he's also working with the chiasmus of sound as a phonological paradigm.

    Sounding Romantic: The Sound of Sound 2008

  • According to Virginia Tenzer, the fact that only one taper at Urbino is lit suggests that this virtue is enacted in the present, at the chiasmus of the past and future, and "that prudence is a habit of mind exercised by Federico" (Iconography, 198).

    Architecture and Memory: The Renaissance Studioli of Federico da Montefeltro 2008

  • Chesterton ' s love of chiasmus — the ABBA pattern in which repetition involves reversal.

    The Syntax of Style Henry Hitchings 2010

  • But while chiasmus and ellipsis were familiar, many of his terms were new to me.

    The Syntax of Style Henry Hitchings 2010

  • Not as a call to battle, though embattled we are, that would be both chiasmus and plyptoton.

    Analyzing The Text Of Obama's Inaugural Address 2009

  • Which nations are better versed in Cohen's vision of human relations, in bible-like chiasmus: "when it all comes down to dust, I will kill you if I must, I will help you if I can; when it all comes down to dust, I will help you if I must, I will kill you if I can."

    Dahlia Scheindlin: The Holy and the Broken 2009

  • “We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.” This line, which he has used in other speeches (and which Bill Clinton also used in his speech nominating Obama back in 2008), was both a distillation of a swing away from Trumpism (as Fred Kaplan observed) and a handy case study of the rhetorical technique called chiasmus, or reversing terms

    Why Biden’s Inaugural Address Succeeded James Fallows 2021


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  • I can't believe nobody has posted this.

    I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

    October 18, 2007

  • Don't let a kiss fool you, or a fool kiss you.

    October 18, 2007

  • Love it! Can't think of any good ones though... Wait! "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." Is that one?

    October 18, 2007

  • If you want to head off a balanced attack by your enemy, you must balance a tack hammer on your head.

    Close, anyway...

    October 18, 2007

  • chiastic was posted long ago. What a double cross!!!!!

    October 18, 2007

  • Well, if you bracket it in your comment (can you still edit it?) then we could all click there whenever we get to this page. That'd be cool. :)

    I think this word is a little more elegant though.

    Also, reading the wiki page for this word makes my head hurt. It's lucky I don't have to understand Latin poetry for any conceivable reason...

    October 18, 2007

  • I think fbharjo was riffing on the word's etymology, yes fb? I've noticed that you enjoy doing that. :-)

    October 18, 2007

  • Reseetee - That course of - of course that ???? yes sey

    October 18, 2007

  • Oh. Well... *head hurts*

    October 18, 2007

  • I want real pain for my sham friends and champagne for my real friends.

    October 18, 2007

  • Right. What fbharjo said. *arms crossed*

    October 18, 2007

  • Seanahan has triggered an indelible memory. Though it was my mother who had the musical talent in the family, my Dad would regularly bring down the house with his rendition of "The Charladies' Ball". Here is the chorus.

    CHORUS: At the Charladies' Ball said one and all,

    "You're the belle of the ball, Mrs. Mulligan."

    We had one-steps and two-steps and the divil knows what new steps.

    We swore that we never would be dull again, by dad.

    We had wine, porter and Jameson. We had cocoa and all.

    We had champagne that night but real pains next morning,

    The night that we danced at the Charladies' Ball.

    Full lyrics can be found here:

    October 18, 2007

  • A really good example from Wikipedia:

    "Swift as an arrow flying, fleeing like a hare afraid"

    adjective, simile, gerund, gerund, simile, adjective

    (A B C C B A); subtler that the other examples here, but you can see how much more powerful it is than the "parallel form" (A B C A B C):

    "Swift as an arrow flying, afraid like a hare fleeing."

    February 15, 2009

  • When writing fiction, bear in mind: the plot doesn't drive the characters, the characters drive the plot.

    April 23, 2009

  • Indeed. For many people (perhaps sadly), that's the difference between fiction and life.

    April 23, 2009

  • Wow chained_bear, that may be the deepest statement every made on Wordie. I'm trying to wrap my head around the implications of fantasy and reality and how people live their lives. Consider my mind blown.

    April 24, 2009

  • "the plot doesn't drive the characters, the characters drive the plot."

    ... dangerous. Just as you say something like this, along will come a precociously talented storyteller to turn convention on its head.

    April 24, 2009

  • But don't forget what Heraclitus said: "Character is destiny."

    April 24, 2009

  • But he's really old and crusty now.


    I'd rather have a bottle in front of me

    Than have to have a frontal lobotomyyyyy....

    April 24, 2009

  • ♩I might be drunk, but at least I'm not insaaaaaane! ♩

    April 25, 2009

  • Examples:

    Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. - John F. Kennedy

    Fair is foul, and foul is fair. - William Shakespeare

    Never let a fool kiss you--or a kiss fool you.

    June 9, 2009

  • From "A Field of Snow on a Slope of the Rosenberg" by Guy Davenport.

    January 19, 2010

  • "Eat to live, don't live to eat." -Cicero

    January 27, 2010

  • "Good meat isn't cheap, and cheap meat isn't good." - from a photo album of Joplin, MO written by a sign painter, hanging in an old butcher's shop.

    February 8, 2013

  • "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." -JFK

    February 8, 2013

  • Found another great chiasmus of sorts - "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" used by Carl Sagan... but he probably got it from someone else. Seems that it is a pretty popular in propositional logic and has cool Latin name, "Modus Tollens". I miss Latin class, but not Catholic school.

    February 14, 2013