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Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Zeugma

Method | Example | Discussion | See also



Zeugma is the joining of two or more parts of a sentence with a common word, usually a verb.


She wore a pink hat and a beatific smile.

In the morning, happy she was, and in the evening and dark night too.

Time makes older adults wiser and younger adults less wise.

Walking up and down.


Zeugma uses ellipsis in omission of the second verb or noun. Thus rather than saying 'walking up and down' you should really say 'walking up and walking down.' Zeugma is thus a convenient abbreviation of language and appears often and unconsciously in speech as we are economical with words. It may also be used deliberately for conciseness or other effect.

Zeugma also uses parallelism in that there are multiple clauses in which the joining word applies.

The way things are linked together can be used to comic effect, such as 'He held a high rank and an old notepad.'

Verb zeugma

There are three types of verb zeugma, depending on whether the verb is at the start, middle or end of the sentence:

  • Prozeugma, also called praeiunctio or injunctum, is where an early verb governs later clauses, such as 'Fear makes us cautious, resentful and sometimes dangerous.'
  • Mesozeugma, also called conjuntum, is where a verb in the middle governs parallel clauses either side of it, such as 'Nothing would cause him fear, not threat nor danger.'
  • Hypozeugma is where a late verb governs earlier clauses, such as 'What makes a person think carefully, and what makes them cautious, is fear.'
  • Synezeugmon, also called adjunctum, is where the verb is joined to more than two clauses, such as 'I saw there the laughter, the great gaiety, the very picture of joy, the epitome of happiness.'

Verb zeugma is the most commonly described form and is often assumed to the only meaning of 'zeugma'.

Noun zeugma

Noun zeugma, or Diazeugma is where a noun governs two or more verbs. There are two types of diazeugma:

  • Diazeugma Disjunction is where the subject is at the start of the sentence, with subsequent verb clauses, such as 'My family is happy, well-fed and kind to each other.'
  • Diazeugma Conjunction is where the subject is in the middle of the sentence, such as 'Afraid and unhappy, the boy stood alone in the world.'

Other forms

Other variants of zeugma include the opposite, of hypozeuxis, and syllepsis, where clauses are not parallel, neither in meaning nor in grammar.


Zeugma comes from the Greek word for 'yoke', implying the joining of words.

Classification: Omission

See also

Ellipsis, Hypozeuxis


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