Figure Name parenthesis
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Quintilian 9.3.23; Bede 614; Melanch. IR d3v ("interpositio" "parenthesis"); Vives ("parenthesis," "interpositio") 119; Sherry (1550) 31 ("parenthesis," "interpositio," "interposicion"); Suarez ("interpretatio" [erroneous reading of Quintilian's "interpositio"]); Peacham (1577) F4v; Putt. (1589) 180 ("parenthesis," "insertour"); Day 1599 83; JG Smith (1665) ("parathesis"); JG Smith (1665) ("parenthesis"); Macbeth (1876) ("interpolation"); De Mille (1882) ("parenthesis," "commentum"); Holmes (1806) ("parenthesis"); Hill (1883); Waddy (1889); Bullinger (1898) ("parenthesis")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms parathesis, interpositio, interposicion, insertour, interpolation
Etymology from Gk. para, "beside" and thesis, "placing"
Type Scheme
Linguistic Domain Syntactic

1. Insertion of a verbal unit that interrupts normal syntactical flow. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Parathesis: apposition: a figure of construction, whereby substantives are added in the same case, &c.; PARATHESIS, appositio, apposition, or a putting of one thing to another; derived from [paratithemi] appono, to put or adde unto. Apposition is a continued or immediate Conjunction of two Substantives of the same case, by the one whereof the other is declared. Apposition is a figure of Construction, (which the Ancients called Interpretation or Declaration) whereby one Noune Substantive is for Declaration and distinction sake added unto another in the same case.
This figure is made for a threefold consideration: viz.

(1.) For the restraining of a generality,
(2.) For the removing of Equivocation,
(3.) For the attribution of some property.(JG Smith)

3. Parenthesis: interposition; it is a clause comprehended within another sentence, without which notwithstanding the sentence is full, or the sense sound.; PARENTHESIS, interpositio, interposition, or an inserting between: derived from [parentithemi] insero, interjicio: to interpose, or cast between. Parenthesis is a form of speech or a clause comprehended within another sentence, which (though it give some strength) may very well be left out, and yet the speech perfect, or the sense sound. Herein are two rules observable, viz.

(1) Let it neither be long nor frequent, because then it will render the sentence obscure.

(2) Let it be very seldome that one Parenthesis be inserted within another. (JG Smith)

4. Parenthesis is a form of speec which setteth a sentence a sunder by the interposition of another, or thus: When a sentence is cast betweene the speech before it be all ended, which although it giveth some strength, yet being taken away, it leaveth the same speech perfect enough. (Peacham)

5. Interpolation, the sudden throwing in of some explanatory or enforcing circumstance; as it is natural in earnest, onward hurrying states of the mind, so does it suit the warmest moods of eloquence. (Macbeth)

3. Unity requires that proper attention be paid to the use of the parenthesis.
The parenthesis generally conveys an idea of a subordinate character, and it is inserted in the midst of the sentence nearest to those words whose meaning it is designed to affect. (De Mille)

6 b)205. COMMENTUM.
One form of the parenthesis is sometimes considered as a separate figure under the name of "commentum," which may be defined as a passing comment, or reflection, on what has been said. (De Mille)

7. Parenthesis is intependent sense, Clos'd in a sentence by a double fence. (Holmes)

8 a) 1) The Parenthesis. - In the term "parenthesis" are included all expressions introduced between dependent parts of a sentence, whether embraced by the marks of parenthesis or not. (Hill)

8 b) (2) Parenthetical Expressions.- While the time relation demands proximity of related parts, the truth-relation often requires a separation of them to admit the introduction of a necessary explanation or limitation. The frequency of these parenthetical insertions depends on the character of the writer's mind, and their necessity on the nature of his thought. Some minds are troubled with an overwhelming flood of suggestion after the sentence is begun, without possessing sufficient generalizing power to seize upon the essential points and formulate general truths as they advance. They will introduce innumerable conditions of time, place, and circumstance in the midst of every proposition. Fullness of matter without definiteness of form leads men to the extremity of involved expression. It is indeed a work of art "to break up this huge fasiculus of cycle and epicycle into a graceful succession of sentences, long intermingled with short, each modifying the other, and arising musically by links of spontaneous connection." (Hill)

9. Parenthesis were formerly much more frequently employed than they are at present. Their excessive use indicates a lack of art in writing. They can in nearly all cases be avoided. We usually remedy the fault by removing the matter from the parenthesis and making it into a separate sentence; but if the matter is not necessary to the completeness of the thought, it may be omitted altogether. (Waddy)

10. Parenthetic Addition by way of Explanation: Complete in Itself... The figure is used when a word or sentence is inserted which is necessary to explain the context. As to grammar, the context is complete without it, but not as to clearness and sense. (Bullinger, 484)

11. PARENTHESIS. Parenthesis is nothing else but the interposition of one or more words within another sentence, the sense of which, without the insertion, is of itself entire and perfect. It is a rule, that a Parenthesis should neither be very long, nor very frequent, left our discourse grow obscure, and not so intelligible. (Norwood, 110-111)


1. The garrulous Polonius from Hamlet can't help but interrupt himself as he speaks to King Claudius about Prince Hamlet's behavior toward his daughter, adding a parenthesis to his own parenthesis:

But what might you think,
When I had seen this hot love on the wing—
As I perceiv'd it (I must tell you that)
Before my daughter told me—what might you,
Or my dear Majesty your queen here, think...?
—Shakespeare, Hamlet 2.2.131-35 (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Parathesis: John 14.22. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord how is it that thou, &c. (JG Smith)

3. That what his wit could conceive (and his wit can conceive as far as the limits of reason stretch) was all directed to the setting forth of his friend, &c. (JG Smith)

4. An example of Esay: At that time all vineyardes, (though there were a thousand vines in one, & sold for a thousand silverlings) shalbe turned into briers and thornes. (Peacham)

4. Another of the Apostle Paul: They are the ministers of Christ (I speake as a foole) I am more, & c. (Peacham)

5. "You may as well forbid the mountain pines
To wag their high tops, and to make no noise,
When they are fretted with the gusts of heaven;
You may as well do any thing most hard,
As seek to soften that (than which what's harder?)-
His Jewish heart." - Shakespeare, "Merchant of Venice" (Macbeth)

6 a) "Suppose (and we beg pardon for putting such a supposition even for the sake of argument) that the Duke of Wellington had, after the campaign of 1815, privately accepted £200,000 from Louis XVIII., as a mark of his gratitude." - MACAULY (De Mille)

6 b) Horace Walpole, speaking of Dr. Johnson, says:
"Some of his own works show that he has at times strong excellent common-sense; and that he had the virtue of charity to a high degree is indubitable; but his friends (of whom he made wolful choice) have taken care to let the world know that in behavior he was an ill-natured bear, and in opinions as senseless a bigot as an old washerwoman-a brave composition for a philosopher!"
This parenthetical remark upon Dr. Johnson's friends serves to give additional emphasis to the report which they made of him.

7. I believe indeed (nor is my faith vain) that he is the offspring of the gods. (Holmes)

8. The following lines from Wordsworth illustrate the damaging effects of parenthesis upon poetry:
"My voice proclaims
How exquisitely the individual mind
(And the progressive powers, perhaps, no less
Of the whole species) to the external world
Is fitted. - And how exquisitely too
(Theme this but little heard of among men)
The external world is fitted to the mind." (Hill)

9. For example: "Mind your own business' is an ancient proverb (indeed all proverbs seem to be ancient), which deserves a due degree of attention from all mankind." To correct, we may say, "'Mind your own business' is an ancient proverb which deserves a due degree of attention from all mankind." (Waddy)

9. "The learning of Sir William Jones (he was master of twenty-eight languages), was the wonder of his contemporaries." Corrected: "Sir William Jones was master of twenty-eight languages. His learning was the wonder of his contemporaries." (Waddy)

10. 2 Pet. 1:19. -"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed (as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise) in your hearts." (Bullinger, 485)

11. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more. 2 Cor. 11. ver. 23. (Norwood, 111)

Kind Of
Part Of
Related Figures Figures of Interruption, Figures of Order, Figures of Definition, correctio, tmesis, hysteron proteron, emphasis
Notes 6. The parenthesis is usually indicated by certain marks; but these are merely for the convenience of the reader, and in many cases it has nothing whatever to indicate its presence. Whether these marks be used or not is a mere question of punctuation, and does not at all affect the true nature of the parenthesis. (De Mille)
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes 'Type of' doesn't seem applicable. JG Smith has two definitions: one for parathesis and one for parenthesis. "Addition" could be Type Of
Reviewed No