Tmesis: Definition and Examples

Tmesis (derives from the Ancient Greek word τμῆσις “tmēsis”, literally “a cutting”), is a rhetorical device solely for the rearrangement of compound words by separating the parts which would ordinarily stuck together; usually with another word inserted between them.

Most often, tmesis is applied to compounds of “ever”; For instance:

‘However dearly parted’ becomes:

“How dearly ever parted,” (dearly cutting in-between “However”).

‘Whatsoever things,’ becomes:

“What things soever,” (things cutting in-between “Whatsoever”).

‘Whichsoever man refer it’ becomes:

“which way sover man refer it”, (way cutting in-between “Whichsoever”).

See other examples:

In the following sentence the word “appear” occurs between the two words that make up the compound “hereafter.”

  1. This is the place where Christ will come, as will here appear after.

In the following sentence, “whatsoever” has been interrupted with “man”:

  1. He shall be punished, what man soever offendeth.

In the following passage, “heinous” interrupts “howe'er”:

  1. If on the first, how heinous e'er it be,
    To win thy after-love I pardon thee.

    Shakespeare, Richard II 5.3.34-35

  • Share

Recommended Books to Flex Your Knowledge