Definition of syllepsis in US English:


nounPlural syllepses

  • A figure of speech in which a word is applied to two others in different senses (e.g., caught the train and a bad cold) or to two others of which it grammatically suits only one (e.g., neither they nor it is working).

    Compare with zeugma
    • ‘More complex instances of authorial disruptions might be labeled narratological syllepses.’
    • ‘You were allowed to go right inside and just wander about until you got bored or asthma (I think that is syllepsis but I could be wrong).’
    • ‘Danny also noted that the term "syllepsis" may be more apt for certain items usually labeled zeugma.’
    • ‘A strong syllepsis in French, ‘Mauvais Genres’ was the title of an exhibit and debate where ‘gore’ and horror film and literature were explored.’
    • ‘Probably the most common type, however, is syllepsis, where a word is understood differently in relation to two or more other words which it modifies or governs.’


Late Middle English: via late Latin from Greek sullēpsis ‘taking together’.