[kahy-az-muh s]

noun, plural chi·as·mi [kahy-az-mahy] /kaɪˈæz maɪ/. Rhetoric.

a reversal in the order of words in two otherwise parallel phrases, as in “He went to the country, to the town went she.”

Nearby words

  1. chiaroscuro,
  2. chiasm,
  3. chiasma,
  4. chiasmatic,
  5. chiasmatypy,
  6. chiastic,
  7. chiastolite,
  8. chiaus,
  9. chiayi,
  10. chib

Origin of chiasmus

1870–75; < Greek chiasmós, equivalent to chi chi1 + -asmos masculine noun suffix, akin to -asma; see chiasma Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for chiasmus

  • For the more complicated forms of chiasmus consult Ngelsbach, Stil.

    Cato Maior de Senectute|Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • There is chiasmus here, since privata is contrasted with honoratis and quieta with claris.

    Cato Maior de Senectute|Marcus Tullius Cicero

British Dictionary definitions for chiasmus


noun plural -mi (-maɪ)

rhetoric reversal of the order of words in the second of two parallel phraseshe came in triumph and in defeat departs
Derived Formschiastic (kaɪˈæstɪk), adjective

Word Origin for chiasmus

C19: from New Latin, from Greek khiasmos crisscross arrangement; see chiasma

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for chiasmus



in grammar, inversion of word order, 1871, Latinized from Greek khiasmos "a placing crosswise, diagonal arrangement" (see chi).

Adam, first of men,
To first of women, Eve.
["Paradise Lost"]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper