Figure Name merismus
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Day 1599 97 ("merismus," "distributio"); Putt. (1589) 230 ("merismus," "the distributor"); Ad Herennium ("distribution") (347-349); Garrett Epp (1994) ("distributio," "diairesis," "merismos"); Peacham 1593; Cicero De Inv. 1.22.32; Vinsauf (1967) ("distributio"); Bullinger (1898) ("merismos; or, distribution")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms distributio, the distributor, diairesis, merismos, distribution, epimerismos, diallage, discriminatio, digestio
Etymology L. “apportionment, division” Gr. merismos "division" form meros "a part"
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. The dividing of a whole into its parts. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Distribution occurs when certain specified
roles are assigned among a number of things or
persons (Ad Herennium)

3. The assigning of specified roles among a number of things or persons. (Garrett Epp)

4. Distributio is a generall word, comprehending diverse special kindes, by which we dilate and spread abroad the generall kinde, by reckoning by the speciall kindes, the whole by divinding it into parts, and the subject by rehearsing the accidents: the first distribution is by division of the generall, the second by partition of the whole, the third by enumeration of the subjects. There are besides divers other figures which are kinds of distribution, but yet differing from these three: for I conteine all those figures under the name of Distribution, which do consist either in number or distribution. (Peacham)

5. Figures of thought: There are other figures to adorn the meaning of the words. All of these I include in the following brief statement: when meaning is adorned, this is the standard procedure. (1) Distributio assigns specific roles to various things or among various persons.(Vinsauf)

6. An Enumeration of the Parts of a Whole which has been mentioned... The figure is so called because, after mentioning a thing as a whole, the parts are afterwards enumerated. (Bullinger, 461)


1. Puttenham provides this example. If one begins with a sentence,
"The house was outrageously plucked down." One can through merismus obtain:

"They first undermined the ground fills, they beat down the walls, they unfloored the lofts, they untiled it and pulled down the roof." (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. " Whoever of you, men of the jury, loves the good name of the Senate, must hate this man, or his attacks upon that body have always been most insolent. Whoever of you wishes the equestrian order to be most resplendent in the
state, must want this person to have paid the severest penalty, so that he may not be, through his personal shame, a stain and disgrace to a most honourable order. You who have parents, must prove by your punishment of this creature that undutiful men do not find favour with you. You who have children, must set forth an example to show how great are the
punishments that have been provided in our state for men of that stamp." (Ad Herennium)

2. The Senate's function is to assist the state with counsel ; the magistracy's is to execute, by diligent activity, the Senate's will; the people's to choose and support by its votes the best measures and the most suitable men." (Ad Herennium)

2. " The duty of the prosecutor is to bring the charges ; that of the counsel for the defence to explain them away and rebut them ; that of the witness to say what he knows or has heard ;
that of the presiding justice to hold each of these to his duty. Therefore, Lucius Cassius, if you allow a witness to argue and to attack by means of conjecture, passing beyond what he knows or has heard, you will be confusing the riglits of a prosecutor with those of a witness, you will be encouraging the partiality of a dishonest witness, and you will be ordaining for the defendant that he defend himself twice." (Ad Herennium)

3. They have a king and officers of sorts,
Where some like magistrates correct at home,
Others like merchants venture trade abroad,
Others like soldiers arméd in their stings
Make boot upon the summer's velvet buds .... (H5 1.2 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

5. ((1)Distributio) To proclaim sacred laws is the pope's prerogative; to observe the form of law prescribed is the part of lesser man. (Vinsauf)

6. Isa. 24:1-3. where, after stating the fact, "Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty," the statement is amplified, and the way in which God will do this scatter the People is afterwards enumerated. (Bullinger, 462)

Kind Of
Part Of
Related Figures figures of division, diaeresis, dialysis
Notes Related Topics of Invention: Division
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No