[ kahy-az-muhs ]
/ kaɪˈæz məs /
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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.”
Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Origin of chiasmus

1870–75; <Greek chiasmós, equivalent to chichi1 + -asmos masculine noun suffix, akin to -asma;see chiasma
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

How to use chiasmus in a sentence

  • There is chiasmus here, since privata is contrasted with honoratis and quieta with claris.

    Cato Maior de Senectute|Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • For the more complicated forms of chiasmus consult Ngelsbach, Stil.

    Cato Maior de Senectute|Marcus Tullius Cicero

British Dictionary definitions for chiasmus

/ (kaɪˈæzməs) /

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 forms of chiasmus

chiastic (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