Supriya Ghosh (Editor)


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Synchysis is a rhetorical technique wherein words are intentionally scattered to create bewilderment, or for some other purpose. By disrupting the normal course of a sentence, it forces the audience to consider the meaning of the words and the relationship between them.



  • "Abraham George Lincoln Washington"
  • "I run and shoot, fast and accurate."
  • "Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear" – Alexander Pope, "Epistle II. To a Lady" (1743)
  • "When earthquakes swallow, or when tempests sweep,
  • Towns to one grave, whole nations to the deep" – Pope, Essay on Man.

    That is, "When earthquakes swallow towns to one grave, or when tempests sweep whole nations to the deep".

  • Golden happy ring girl.
  • In poetry

    This poetry form was a favorite with Latin poets. It is described by the website Silva Rhetoricae as "Hyperbaton or anastrophe taken to an obscuring extreme, either accidentally or purposefully." It is doubtful, however, whether it could be correct to describe effects in Latin poetry, which was very carefully written, as accidental.

    A synchysis may be opposed to chiasmus, which is a phrase in the form A-B-B-A.

    A line of Latin verse in the form adjective A - adjective B - verb - noun A - noun B, with the verb in the center (or a corresponding chiastic line, again with the verb in the center), is known as a golden line. A highly common occurrence in Virgil's Aeneid, an example is aurea purpuream subnectit fibula vestem, "a golden clasp bound her purple cloak" (Virgil, Aeneid 4.139). Usually, synchysis is formed through the adjective A - adjective B - noun A - noun B structure, but it can also exist as adjective-noun-adjective-noun.

    Today, it is mainly found in poetry, where poets use it to maintain metre or rhyme.


    Synchysis is derived from the Latin and Ancient Greek word σύγχυσις or synchysis, meaning “a mixing”.

    Examples in Latin poetry

    Catullus notably made use of synchysis in his poetry. Catullus 75 has this line:

    Huc est mens deducta tuā mea Lesbia culpa

    Taking mea with Lesbia this line reads:

    To this point, (my) mind is reduced by your guilt, my Lesbia.

    The correct way to translate the line, however, is to take it with the more distant mens, observing Catullus's synchysis:

    To this point, Lesbia, my mind is reduced by your guilt.

    Another example comes from Horace (Odes I.35, lines 5ff.), part of a hymn to a goddess:

    te pauper ambit sollicitā prece ruris colonus, te dominam aequoris quicumque Tyrrhenā lacessit Carpathium pelagus carinā.

    The meaning is "thee, (the mistress) of the countryside, the poor farmer beseeches with anxious prayer, thee, the mistress of the ocean, whoever provokes the Carpathian sea in a Tyrrhenian boat (beseeches)", dominam being understood with ruris as well as aequoris. Often, through failure to spot the synchysis, ruris is taken with colonus, and the verse is incorrectly translated as "the poor farmer of the countryside".


    Synchysis Wikipedia

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