In rhetoric, zeugma (/ /(listen); from the Ancient Greek ζεῦγμα, zeûgma, lit. "a yoking together") and syllepsis (//; from the Ancient Greek σύλληψις, sullēpsis, lit. "a taking together") are figures of speech in which a single phrase or word joins different parts of a sentence.
In current usage, there are multiple and sometimes conflicting definitions for zeugma and syllepsis. This article categorizes these two figures of speech into four types, based on four definitions:
Grammatical syllepsis (sometimes also called zeugma): where a single word is used in relation to two other parts of a sentence although the word grammatically or logically applies to only one.
By definition, grammatical syllepsis will often be grammatically "incorrect" according to traditional grammatical rules. However, such solecisms are sometimes not errors but intentional constructions in which the rules of grammar are bent by necessity or for stylistic effect.
This quote from Alfred Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" is ungrammatical from a grammarian's viewpoint, because "works" does not grammatically agree with "I": the sentence "I works mine" would be ungrammatical. On the other hand, Tennyson's two sentences could be taken to deploy a different figure of speech, namely "ellipsis". The sentence would be taken to mean,
Read in this way, the conjunction is not ungrammatical.
Zeugma (often also called syllepsis, or semantic syllepsis): a single word is used with two other parts of a sentence but must be understood differently in relation to each. Example: "He took his hat and his leave." The type of figure is grammatically correct but creates its effect by seeming, at first hearing, to be incorrect by its exploiting multiple shades of meaning in a single word or phrase.
When the meaning of a verb varies for the nouns following it, there is a standard order for the nouns: the noun first takes the most prototypical or literal meaning of the verb and is followed by the noun or nouns taking the less prototypical or more figurative verb meanings.
The opposite process, in which the first noun expresses a figurative meaning and the second a more literal meaning, tends to create a comic effect: "and she feeds me love and tenderness and macaroons." (The Stampeders, "Sweet City Woman")
The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms offers a much broader definition for zeugma by defining it as any case of parallelism and ellipsis working together so that a single word governs two or more other parts of a sentence.
The more usual way of phrasing this would be "Lust conquered shame, audacity conquered fear, and madness conquered reason." The sentence consists of three parallel clauses, called parallel because each has the same word order: verb, object, subject in the original Latin; subject, verb, object in the English translation. The verb "conquered" is a common element in each clause. The zeugma is created in both the original and the translation by removing the second and third instances of "conquered". Removing words that still can be understood by the context of the remaining words is ellipsis.
The more usual way of phrasing this would be "Histories make men wise, poets make them witty, mathematics make them subtle, natural philosophy makes them deep, moral [philosophy] makes them grave, and logic and rhetoric make them able to contend." (Because ellipsis involves the omission of words, ambiguities can arise. The sentence could also be read as, "Histories make men wise, make poets witty, make mathematics subtle, make natural philosophy deep, makes moral [philosophy] grave, and make logic and rhetoric able to contend.")
Zeugmas are defined in this sense in Samuel Johnson's 18th-century A Dictionary of the English Language.
A special case of semantic syllepsis occurs when a word or phrase is used both in its figurative and literal sense at the same time. Then, it is not necessary for the governing phrase to relate to two other parts of the sentence. One example is in an advertisement for a transport company: "We go a long way for you." This type of syllepsis operates in a similar manner to a homonymic pun.
prozeugma figure of speech.