1590s, "deep crack in the earth," from Latin chasma, from Greek khasma "yawning hollow, gulf," related to khaskein "to yawn," and thus to chaos. In English in 17c. often spelled chasma. Figurative use, of a great interruption or wide breach of any kind, is from 1640s. Related: Chasmy (1786); chasmal (1842, Poe); chasmic (1885). The bloody chasm (1868) was an old rhetorical phrase for the American Civil War.