Definition of tmesis in English:



  • [mass noun] The separation of parts of a compound word by an intervening word or words, used mainly in informal speech for emphasis (e.g. can't find it any-blooming-where).

    • ‘Did I ever say how much I love a good bit of tmesis?’
    • ‘But my abso-bloody-lutely favourite way of swearing is to use bastardised tmesis - the splitting up of a compound word into parts, and then slotting a rude word in the middle.’
    • ‘Isn't phrasal tmesis a syntactic equivalent of those ‘specious lines of play’ his books are filled with?’
    • ‘A master of so many poetic devices, Humbert riddles the narrative with instances of tmesis, the figure Hartman identifies as the epitome of poetry's elided middles and overspecified ends.’


Mid 16th century: from Greek tmēsis cutting, from temnein to cut.