\ZOOG-muh\ [noun]

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.

History & Origin

Zeugma (1580s) stems from the Greek word of the same spelling which literally meant “a yoking,” from zeugnynai "to yoke," derived from the Proto-Indo-European *yeug- “to join” (the shared root of Sanskrit yugam "yoke," yunjati “binds, harnesses,” yogah “union;” Hittite yugan “yoke;” Greek zygon “yoke;” Old Church Slavonic igo, Old Welsh iou “yoke;” Lithuanian jungas “yoke,” jungiu “fastened in a yoke;” Old English geoc “yoke;” probably also Latin iuxta “close by”).

In zeugma, unlike syllepsis, the single word does not fit grammatically or idiomatically with one member of the pair. Thus, the first example below would be syllepsis, the second zeugma:

"You are free to execute your laws, and your citizens, as you see fit."(Star Trek: The Next Generation)

"Kill the boys and the luggage!" (Fluellen in William Shakespeare’s Henry V)


"His first novel was filled with strange and humorous zeugma, like, ‘It’s a small apartment. I have barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends.’”

October 27: My Big Fat Gypsy Syllepsis

12.05. Made pecan pie. Only without the pie.
14.36. How marvellous it is to find oneself with umbrella when the
heavens open unexpectedly!
13.38. Women and children scurry to the crudest shelters; with delight they watch me dance, dance, dance in the rain, so dry and happy.
22.00. A great day grinding the noses of the poor, and almonds.