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

  • n. Separation of the parts of a compound word by one or more intervening words; for example, where I go ever instead of wherever I go.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The insertion of one or more words between the components of a compound word.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The separation of the parts of a compound word by the intervention of one or more words.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In grammar, a figure by which a compound word is separated into two parts, and one or more words are inserted between them: as, “of whom be thou ware also” (2 Tim. iv. 15), for “of whom beware thou also.” Also called diacope.


Late Latin tmēsis, from Greek, a cutting, from temnein, to cut; see tem- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Coined 1586, from Late Latin tmēsis, from Ancient Greek τμῆσις (tmēsis, "a cutting"), from τέμνω (temnō, "I cut"). (Wiktionary)



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  • Tmesis, by the way, is part of Russian grammar when it comes to prepositional phrases with negative pronouns such as никто (nikto, "nobody"), ничто (nichto, "nothing"), and никакой (nikakoy, "no kind of"). So if you want to say, "We were not talking about anybody", that would be "Мы не говорили ни о ком" (My ne govorili ni o kom), literally (more or less), "We were not talking no-about-body" (Russian uses the double negative).

    June 27, 2015

  • Thanks, Tank.

    June 27, 2015

  • In English, tmesis mostly happens when the inserted word is placed in the syllable right before the primary stress syllable:
    fan-TAS-tic, so fan-frickin-TAS-tic.

    But sometimes right before the morpheme boundary is a more natural place to break up the word:
    un-/be-LIEV-a-ble, so: un-frickin-/be-LIEV-a-ble OR un-/be-frickin-LIEV-a-ble.

    In English, compounds normally have a primary stress on the first word, so tmesis doesn't work out so well.
    *BASE-frickin-ball, *FIRE-damn-fighter, *PAN-da-damn-cub.

    June 26, 2015

  • That's a-whole-nother story.

    June 26, 2015

  • Some remedial examples, please. I'm still fuzzy on this.

    June 25, 2015

  • JM hates tme-bloody-sis.

    March 24, 2011

  • "You can always tell a cuckoo from Bridge End .... it goes cuck-BLOODY-OO, cuck-BLOODY-OO, cuck-BLOODY-OO."

    Dylan Thomas, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog

    November 20, 2008

  • Does supercalifreakinawesome work?

    August 18, 2008

  • Come on. Tfuckingmesis.

    August 17, 2008

  • Infuckingcredible!

    August 17, 2008

  • Fanfuckingtastic is my fave.

    October 5, 2007

  • Or unfuckinbelievable.

    October 5, 2007

  • When we were kids and were told to behave, we'd reply with, "But I am being hayve!" ;-)

    October 3, 2007

  • How about "abso freakin' lutely?"

    See also dystmesis.

    October 3, 2007

  • Separation of the parts of a compound word by one or more intervening words; for example, "where I go ever" instead of "wherever I go".

    April 7, 2007

  • "West By God Virginia" is the one my father used to say.

    March 8, 2007