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Chiasmus Examples

Chiasmus is the reversing the order of words in the second of two parallel phrases. This rhetorical device is also referred to as reverse parallelism, antimetabole or syntactical inversion.

Chiasmus Examples in Quotes

  • Do I love you because you’re beautiful? Or are you beautiful because I love you? – Oscar Hammerstein
  • The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults. – Peter de Vries
  • The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order. – Alfred North Whitehead
  • Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things. – Jacquelyn Small
  • One should eat to live, not live to eat. – Cicero
  • The instinct of a man is to pursue everything that flies from him, and to fly from all that pursues him. – Voltaire
  • This isn’t a bar for writers with a drinking problem; it’s for drinkers with a writing problem. – Judy Joice
  • They don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care – Jim Calhoun.
  • The right to bear arms is slightly less ridiculous than the right to arm bears. – Chiastic joke by comedian Chris Addison

Chiasmus in Speeches

  • In the end, the true test is not the speeches a president delivers; it’s whether the president delivers on the speeches. – Hillary Clinton
  • People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power. – President Bill Clinton
  • My job is not to represent Washington to you, but to represent you to Washington. – Barack Obama
  • Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. – President John Kennedy
  • If black men have no rights in the eyes of the white men, of course the whites can have none in the eyes of the blacks. – Frederick Douglass

Chiasmus In Literature

  • “Never let a fool kiss you–or a kiss fool you.” – Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You – by Mardy Grothe
  • You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget. – The Road
  • But many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first. – Matthew 7:6
  • Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. – Isaiah 6:10
  • Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20
  • “It is not the Earth that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.” – Aeschylus
  • “Love as if you would one day hate, and hate as if you would one day love.” – Bias
  • “Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.” – Socrates

Now you see how chiasmus works in context.


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