Chiasmus Definition, Meaning, and Examples

20 April 2023 / Team Fun English Course

To enhance your writing skills, you need to know and utilize many literary devices. One of them is by using chiasmus as one of the ways to add your writing style. What is chiasmus? Here, you are going to learn about the chiasmus definition, meaning, and examples.

Chiasmus Definition and Meaning

Chiasmus Definition

Chiasmus also means a rhetorical device in writing. It is a literary device that is using words, constructions, grammatical, or concepts in reverse order. The word ‘chiasmus’ comes from a Greek word that means ‘X-shaped’. Generally, you will use chiasmus to write a clause and then write the same one in reverse. 

Chiasmus pronunciation – the way to pronounce chiasmus is “kigh-az-muss”.

Chiasmus Examples  

Chiasmus Examples

We can find chiasmus in many forms of writing, including novels, song lyrics, theatrical scenes, and speeches. However, chiasmus is most associated with poetry. The poetic verse written in many dramatic plays often provides the uses of chiasmus. 

Take an example from this famous line of Shakespeare’s work, Othello: “Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves.” 

From that line, we can see two similar words: “dotes” and “loves”, which then form the end of the phrase. The same goes for the words “doubts” and “suspects” which share the same meaning and form the middle part of the phrase. 

To understand more about chiasmus, try to take a closer look at these examples using important elements of chiasmus:

  • Repeated Concepts in Chiasmus example

Besides using synonyms, chiasmus can also contain contrasting concepts or opposite ideas. For example, “My heart burned with grief, and chilled was my body when I saw it.”

The phrases in the sentence above describe an emotional experience through the opposite words “burned” and chilled”. Meanwhile, the words “heart” and “body” might not be opposite. Still, both are related and at the same time, contrasting ideas. 

  • Inverted Word in Chiasmus Example

The words in the chiasmus are repeated and use a mirroring structure. “You are definitely not the best, but you are not the worst” is a good example that shows inverted words. 

Notice that there are two words that make the phrase seem like it is being mirrored. The word “best” is the inverse version of “worst” that shows a chiasmus can contain contrasting ideas.

From the examples above, we can see that despite its inverted and contrasting ideas, chiasmus describes a single topic. Therefore, we can say that if the concepts are unrelated, then it is not chiasmus.  

Why do We Use Chiasmus? 

chiasmus examples

Chiasmus’ purpose can vary and depend on why the writer uses it. However, writers usually use chiasmus to elaborate and present an idea. Also, to persuade and to create a harmonious quality in writing. 

Since chiasmus involves repeated concepts, it can present and deepen an idea. Chiasmus’ structure will deepen and expand an idea in the latter clauses through elaboration. 

Moreover, chiasmus can be persuasive and utilized as a dynamic tool of rhetoric. Using chiasmus can help you in connecting between contrasting ideas. Chiasmus appears in many forms, including some axioms, such as “It is hard to make time, but to waste it is easy”. Or, in the form of antimetabole, like “Do not ask what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” 

Using and identifying chiasmus can be challenging if unfamiliar with its elements and structures. But, you can always try to learn and practice more to use it by taking a writing course.

If you want to understand more about the chiasmus definition and how to use it, Fun English Course provides programs that can help improve your English, including writing. So, find the best program that suits your needs here!

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