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).

    • ‘Isn't phrasal tmesis a syntactic equivalent of those ‘specious lines of play’ his books are filled with?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Did I ever say how much I love a good bit of tmesis?’


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