Definition of zeugma in US English:



  • A figure of speech in which a word applies to two others in different senses (e.g., John and his license expired last week) or to two others of which it semantically suits only one (e.g., with weeping eyes and hearts).

    Compare with syllepsis
    • ‘If they're both just examples of zeugma, why is that?’
    • ‘He knew what a zeugma is, and had strong, informed views on the semicolon.’
    • ‘We demonstrate how it contributes to the creation of zeugma and the non-availability of crossed readings.’


Late Middle English: via Latin from Greek, from zeugnunai ‘to yoke’; related to zugon ‘yoke’.