Figure Name tmesis
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Bede 614; Sherry (1550) 31 ("tmesis," "dissectio"); Peacham (1577) F4v; Day 1599 83 ("tmesis," "diacope") ; JG Smith (1665) ("tmesis"); Macbeth (1876); De Mille (1882); Holmes (1806) ("tmesis"); Bullinger (1898) ('tmesis; or mid-cut")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms timesis, dissectio, mid-cut, diacope, diaeresis, diastole, ectasis, dialysis, divisio
Etymology Gk. "a cutting" from temnein "to cut"
Type Scheme
Linguistic Domain Morphological

1. Interjecting a word or phrase between parts of a compound word or between syllables of a word. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Section, or dividing: a figure whereby the parts of a compound or simple word are divided by the interposition of another.; Tmesis, Sectio, a Section, or dividing, derived from [temno] or [tmao] seco, scindo, to cut or divide. Tmesis is a figure whereby the parts of a compound or simple word are divided by the interposition of another. (JG Smith)

3. Tmesis, Diacope, or Cutting, let us next illustrate, lead to it by the last example, each part split off being a complete word; as "to us ward" for toward us. (Macbeth)

4. 193. TMESIS.
Tmesis has the effect of inversion. It is the division of a compound word into two: as-
"On what side soever," for "on whatsoever side."
"To God ward," for "toward God." (De Mille)

5. By Tmesis words divided oft are seen, And others 'twixt the parts do intervene. (Holmes)

6. A Change by which one Word is cut in two, and another Wordput in between... It is a figure by which a compound word or connected phrase is separated, and the position of its syllables changed, by the intervention of one or more words. (Bullinger, 699)


1. In the following sentence the word "appear" occurs between the two words that make up the compound "hereafter."
This is the place where Christ will come, as will here appear after.
In the following sentence, "whatsoever" has been interrupted with "man":
He shall be punished, what man soever offendeth.

In the following passage, "heinous" interrupts "howe'er":
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 (Silva Rhetoricae)

3. In a renowned passage of the Rev. Richard Hooker's "Ecclesiastical Polity," in defence of the Church of England, a cutting occurs in the expression "what condition soever:"

"Of Law there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world. All things in heaven and earth do her homage: the least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power; both angels and creatures of what condition soever, each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy." (Macbeth)

5. What crime soever, for whatsoever crime. (Holmes)

Kind Of
Part Of
Related Figures figures of division, anastrophe, hyperbaton, parenthesis, diacope
Notes type of "addition"? Macbeth gives the same definition for tmesis as for diacope. - sam
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No