Chiasmus Examples


Chiasmus is the term for a rhetorical device in which a sentence or phrase is followed by a sentence or phrase that reverses the structure and order of the first one.

In chiasmus, the words do not have to be repeated-the second sentence does not just reverse the words of the first sentence. Different words can be used. The key is that the sentence is grammatically the same, just reversed.

Writers and speakers use chiasmus for the effect. Sometimes, chiasmus is implied-the reversal of reality is present in the words that are spoken or written.

Examples of Chiasmus:

1. She went to church, but to the bar went he.

2. The day was dawning, but setting was his life.

3. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl.

4. Her life was full of children, and her children full of life.

Examples of Chiasmus from Literature and Rhetoric:

1. "Suit the action to the word, the word to the action." Shakespeare's Hamlet

2. "For 'tis a question left us yet to prove, whether love lead to fortune, or else fortune love." Shakespeare's Hamlet

3. "Foul is fair and fair is foul." Shakespeare's MacBeth

4. "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate." John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address

5. "Many who are first shall be last, and the last shall be first." The Bible

6. "A hard man is good to find." Mae West (reversal of the popular saying, "A good man is hard to find."

Related Links:
Grammar Examples