Z is for Zeugma

Zeugma is a literary/rhetorical term used to describe the use of a word (usually a main verb or a noun) to modify two or more other parts of the same sentence—even if that particular word doesn’t fit grammatically or idiomatically with the other member of the pair.

Sounds confusing, doesn’t it?

It might be a little easier to understand if I give an example:

The farmers in the valley grew potatoes, peanuts, and bored – Kevin Flynn

Kill the boys and the luggage!” – Fluellen in William Shakespeare’s Henry V

“You are free to execute your laws, and your citizens, as you see fit.” – Star Trek: The Next Generation

According to Gideon O. Burton, Brigham Young University, who gleaned his information from Silva Rhetoricae there are several different kinds of Zeugmas:

Zeugma figures: Position of Governing Verb:

Zeugma figures: Governing Noun:

  • diazeugma
    A single subject governs several verbs or verbal constructions
  • hypozeuxis
    Every clause (in a series of parallel clauses) has its own (different) verb

I don’t know that I’ve ever used a Zeugma in my own writing, but knowing various literary devices like this one will certainly improve my writing skills.

I’m just glad a found a “Z” word that falls under my Writing category!





**This concludes my A-Z posts. I’m so glad I survived this challenge. Thanks to all of you for bearing me. I’m glad to have made new bloggy friends and kept old ones.


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14 Responses to “Zeugma”

  1. What a great “Z” ending to the A to Z Challenge.
    I learned something new here – thanks!

    Jenny @ Pearson Report
    Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

  2. I’m sure we’ve all done it. I’m surprised there’s a literary term for it. A verb modifying two nouns is pretty standard.

  3. Chihuahua0 says:

    I never heard the term “zeugma” before! I’m sure I had seen it many times, but I think it can be masterfully used in a drama or comedy scene, like with all literary devices.

  4. Fran@ Broken Cookies Don't Count says:

    Wow, I never heard of zeugma. Thanks for keeping me on my toes. Happy Last day of A to Z!!

  5. mooderino says:

    I’ve used the technique, but didn’t know it had a name.

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  6. Oh, I’ve never heard of this word! Great ending for the A-Z. Congrats on another great Challenge, Nutschell! It’s been fun and I’ve really enjoyed your posts.

  7. That’s a new term to me!

  8. Lynn Kelley says:

    Wow, what a word! I’ve never heard of it before, but it sure fit perfectly for your A-Z challenge. I bet you’re ready for a blog break, huh? Take care, Nutschell!

  9. ami says:

    I never heard that word before either. Great end to your series.


  10. Geoffrey says:

    I’m so impressed with the number of different words the blogging community have come up with in relation to their respective theme subjects. Zeugma is one of the most astonishing words I’ve come across in my blog surfing so far. Well done on finding such an interesting word and on completing the A to Z April Challenge, Geoff.

  11. Great post, as usual. Now, don’t test me on anything, promise?

  12. Hilary says:

    Hi Nutschell .. great Z post – loved reading this .. I forget these words! Cheers Hilary

  13. Most original idea for the A-Z challenge! Loved it!
    This is a term I’d never learned until today…so thanks! I adore word play, er, Zeugma. Ha!

  14. Tonja says:

    I’ve never heard of zeugma. Awesome!

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