noun Grammar, Rhetoric.
  1. the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words when it is appropriate to only one of them or 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.
Compare syllepsis.

Origin of zeugma

1515–25; < Greek zeûgma a yoking, equivalent to zeug(nýnai) to yoke1 + -ma noun suffix of result
Related formszeug·mat·ic [zoog-mat-ik] /zugˈmæt ɪk/, adjectivezeug·mat·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of zeugma

British Dictionary definitions for zeugma


  1. a figure of speech in which a word is used to modify or govern two or more words although appropriate to only one of them or making a different sense with each, as in the sentence Mr. Pickwick took his hat and his leave (Charles Dickens)
Derived Formszeugmatic (zjuːɡˈmætɪk), adjectivezeugmatically, adverb

Word Origin for zeugma

C16: via Latin from Greek: a yoking, from zeugnunai to yoke
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for zeugma

1580s, "a single word (usually a verb or adjective) made to refer to two or more words in a sentence," from Greek, literally "a yoking," from zeugnynai "to yoke" (see jugular).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper