Definitions

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

  • n. Syllepsis.
  • n. A construction in which one word or phrase is understood to be related to two or more other words or phrases, while being grammatically consistent with only one of them, as with subject-verb agreement in She was upstairs, and her children downstairs.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. 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.
  • n. Syllepsis.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. 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 The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. 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.
  • n. [capitalized] [NL.] In entomology, a genus of hemipterous insects.

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

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

Etymologies

Latin, from Greek, a joining, bond; see yeug- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek ζεῦγμα (zeugma, "yoking; a bond, a band"), from ζεύγνυμι (zeugnumi, "to yoke; to join"), from ζεῦγος (zeugos, "a yoke"). (Wiktionary)

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • About a year ago, dhawhee wrote a post on her favorite trope in her case, zeugma.

    Ferule & Fescue

  • Grant and Peter both suggest the “zeugma,” which is really too complicated to explain, while David envisages “a groovy Latin number about the Spanish question mark.”

    Michael Hogan: Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma,” Explained: Michael Hogan

Comments

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  • The farmers in the valley grew potatoes, peanuts, and bored.

    He lost his coat and his temper.

    The kleptomaniac illusionist stole the show and my wallet.

    July 17, 2011

  • zeugma is an odd yokemate - a nonparallel juxtaposition

    October 13, 2008

  • I don't know about that -- but time flies prefer fun!

    October 13, 2008

  • I always thought that fruit flies prefer an orange.

    October 12, 2008

  • Yes, we know you have bananas.

    October 12, 2008

  • Do you think I have bananas?

    October 12, 2008

  • No!?

    October 12, 2008

  • Lovely play, d! And my greengrocer tells me he has a fruit flies problem. Especially with bananas!!!!

    October 12, 2008

  • I have a time flies problem too, g. Maybe we're having too much fun...

    October 12, 2008

  • "Yes."

    October 12, 2008

  • Did you tell your grocer "It looks like you don't have any bananas"? What did he say?

    October 12, 2008

  • And, perversely, many vegetable flies like rooted but fruit flies off the shelves.

    October 12, 2008

  • Can't even find anywhere to buy bananas, 'gus.

    October 12, 2008

  • You should buy an arrow trap.

    October 12, 2008

  • Don't have any answers for you, myth. I do know that my home is infested with time flies and I don't like it.

    October 12, 2008

  • What is the governing word in: "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana?"

    Can a governing word switch parts of speech?
    flies is a verb and a noun
    like is a preposition and a verb

    Does Zeugma refer to a governing word (like the definition here) or a governing verb? Is Zuegma (governing verb) a type of syllepsis (governing word) or the other way around? Neither of my books on Rhetoric gives a definitive answer.

    October 12, 2008

  • cf litotes

    July 20, 2008

  • "Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
    Dost sometimes counsel take---and sometimes Tea."
    --Alexander Pope, "The Rape of the Lock," Canto III

    March 9, 2008

  • It is important to keep zeugmatic tires properly inflated.

    March 8, 2008

  • Zounds!

    July 19, 2007

  • Zoiks! ;-)

    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

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

    July 18, 2007

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

    July 17, 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

  • 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

  • compare with syllepsis

    June 21, 2007

  • Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
    --Groucho Marx

    February 16, 2007