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Synchises is a rhetorical technique wherein words are intentionally scattered to create bewilderment.[1][2] By disrupting the normal course of a sentence, it forces the audience to consider the meaning of the words and the relationship between them.[3]


"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)

Golden happy ring girl.

In poetry[edit]

This poetry form was a favorite with Latin poets. They are often employed to demonstrate such change within the event in which they are situated; on occasion, there are synchises within a poem which were not intended but happened to be written in such a way. It is described by Silva Rhetoricae as "Hyperbaton or anastrophe taken to an obscuring extreme, either accidentally or purposefully."[4]

A synchises may be opposed to chiasmus, which is 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,[5] it is first seen in the work in line four: Vi superum, saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram, with saevae ("cruel") modifying Iunonis, and memorem ("remembering or mindful") modifying iram ("anger"). The Latin system of case endings makes such a verse possible.

A second example of this is aurea purpuream subnectit fibula vestem, "a golden clasp bound her purple cloak" (Virgil, Aeneid 4.139). Usually, synchises is formed through the adjective A- adjective B- noun A- noun B structure, but it can also exist as adjective-noun-adjective-noun.[6]

Today, it is mainly found in poetry,[7] where poets use it to maintain metre or rhyme.[8]


Synchisis is derived from the Latin and Ancient Greek word σύγχυσις or synchisis, meaning “a mixing”.[9]

Example in Latin poetry[edit]

Catullus notably made use of synchysis in his poetry. His piece labeled "Catullus 75" exhibits this:

Huc est mens deducta tua, mea Lesbia, culpa
atque ita se officio perdidit ipsa suo,
ut iam nec bene velle queat tibi, si optima fias,
nec desistere amare, omnia si facias.[10]

Translated verbatim, line 1 reads:

To this point, the mind is reduced by your, my Lesbia, the fault

Catullus follows the established form for synchises, mixing up the phrase that could read:

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gaynor, Frank (1954). A Dictionary of Linguistics. Philosophical Library. p. 209. 
  2. ^ Enos, Theresa (2010). Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition : communication From Ancient Times to the Information Age. New York: Routledge. p. 271. ISBN 0415875242. 
  3. ^ "Synchysis". Changing Minds. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Silva Rhetoricae,
  5. ^ Pharr, Grammatical Appendix
  6. ^ Alford, L.D. "Rising Action – Figures of Speech, Synchysis". Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  7. ^ "Synchises". Changing Minds. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  8. ^ Zimmerman, Brett (2005). Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric and Style ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 129. ISBN 0773528997. 
  9. ^ "Synchysis (English)". Word Sense. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "Catul. 75". Perseus Digital Library Project. Retrieved 5 November 2014.