Synchysis: Definition and Examples

Synchysis (derives from Greek word synkein literally means “to mingle” or “to confuse”), is a rhetorical device which consists in the confused and intricate positioning of words in a sentence, which as a result, brings bewilderment and makes the meaning unclear.

Synchysis is commonly found in poetry where poets use it to achieve meterOpens in new window and rhymeOpens in new window.

Notable Examples of Synchysis

The examples below are typical of synchysis, by which words are scattered about, in view of compelling the reader to figure out the relationship of the words and ultimately decipher the meaning.

  1. “An ass will with his long ears fray
    The flies that tickle him, away;
    But man delights to have his ears
    Blown maggots in by flatterers.”

    — (Butler’s Poems, Pg. 161)

Now, rearranging the words to decipher the meaning:

An ass will with his long ears fray away the flies that tickle him;
But man delights to have maggots blown in his ears by flatterers.

  1. “When earthquakes swallow, or when tempests sweep, Towns to one grave, whole nations to the deep”

    — (Pope, Essay on Man.)

The deciphered meaning will be:

“When earthquakes swallow towns to the deep,
or when tempests sweep whole nations to one grave”.

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