Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Syllepsis.
  • noun A construction in which one word or phrase is understood to fill a parallel syntactic role in two or more clauses or phrases, as with the verb was in She was upstairs, and her husband downstairs.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A figure in grammar in which two nouns are joined to a verb suitable to only one of them, but suggesting another verb suitable to the other noun; or in which an adjective is similarly used with two nouns.
  • noun [capitalized] [NL.] In entomology, a genus of hemipterous insects.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Gram.) A figure by which an adjective or verb, which agrees with a nearer word, is, by way of supplement, referred also to another more remote.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun rhetoric The act of using a word, particularly an adjective or verb, to apply to more than one noun when its sense is appropriate to only one.
  • noun rhetoric Syllepsis.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun use of a word to govern two or more words though appropriate to only one

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Latin, from Greek, a joining, bond; see yeug- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Ancient Greek ζεῦγμα (zeugma, "yoking; a bond, a band"), from ζεύγνυμι (zeugnumi, "to yoke; to join"), from ζεῦγος (zeugos, "a yoke").

Examples

  • This is usually called a zeugma; it's a purely structural way of using prepositions in an odd way, for effect e.g., humor.

    Archive 2005-09-01

  • Lauterbur submitted a paper to the journal Nature outlining his discovery – which he gave the rather grand name of zeumatography, from the Greek word zeugma, or yoke, to signify the fact that the technique links chemical and spatial information.

    The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2003 - Perspectives

  • This is usually called a zeugma; it's a purely structural way of using prepositions in an odd way, for effect e.g., humor.

    Literal Figures of Speech

  • The people speak of their land as dying by a kind of zeugma, for the land deteriorates if it be not worked, and here their plea is for seed.

    Exposition of Genesis: Volume 1

  • He calls her by a kind of zeugma "your daughter," though she is but Jacob's daughter; however, all have the disposal of her in hand.

    Exposition of Genesis: Volume 1

  • Apparently this type of "zeugma" (yes, there are many types) is called "syllepsis."

    Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle

  • I should note that the word "zeugma" appears in Westlaw's Allcases database 20 times -- all of them either in the name Zeugma Corp. or the title of Libert H. Boeynaems,

    The Volokh Conspiracy

  • I'd like to give a familiar quote -- preferably from a famous song, play, novel, or movie -- that contains a zeugma, which is to say "The use of a word to modify or govern two or more words when it is ... appropriate to each but in a different way, as in to wage war and peace or On his fishing trip, he caught three trout and a cold.

    British Blogs

  • I'd like to give a familiar quote -- preferably from a famous song, play, novel, or movie -- that contains a zeugma, which is to say "The use of a word to modify or govern two or more words when it is ... appropriate to each but in a different way, as in to wage war and peace or On his fishing trip, he caught three trout and a cold.

    The Volokh Conspiracy

  • 2D: Have a break at 4: 00, say (take tea) - when I first learned what "zeugma" was, this was the example:

    Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle

Comments

New comments are temporarily disabled while we update our database.

  • Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

    --Groucho Marx

    February 16, 2007

  • compare with syllepsis

    June 21, 2007

  • Ha! I used the Groucho Marx quotation this week, and it was the first thing that came to mind when I read the definition of zeugma!

    June 21, 2007

  • Love the concept, don't really care for the word itself tho. It sounds like some kind of disease. Or maybe a car. "Try the new Zeugma - 50 miles to the gallon!"

    July 17, 2007

  • I agree, it is an unlikely sounding word. Zooming zits!

    July 17, 2007

  • Zooming zits? Lucky you, mine usually just plod along.

    July 18, 2007

  • I was thinking of it as an unpleasant oath playing on the letter zee. ;-) For instance, Great zooming zits, that's ugly!

    July 18, 2007

  • Zoiks! ;-)

    July 18, 2007

  • Zounds!

    July 19, 2007

  • It is important to keep zeugmatic tires properly inflated.

    March 8, 2008