Syllepsis is a rhetorical figure that involves a word modifying two or more words in different ways.
It’s sort of like polysemy, which is when a word has multiple meanings and those meanings are related to each other, but syllepsis often happens with the meaning of the word changing completely.
“I love my cat so much that I would die for him.” Here “die” means “sacrifice myself for,” not just die physically (and you’re probably not going to do either).
Syllepsis – Definition
Syllepsis, also known as zeugma, is a figure of speech in which a single word is used to modify two or more words in a sentence, but the meaning of that word is different in relation to each of the other words.
This can create a sense of intrigue and surprise for the reader or listener, as the word’s multiple meanings are revealed throughout the sentence.
For example, in the sentence “She closed the door and her eyes,” the word “closed” is used as a past tense verb in relation to the door, but as an adjective in relation to the eyes.
This creates a sense of contrast between the physical action of closing the door and the emotional state of closing one’s eyes.
Syllepsis can also be used to create a sense of humor or irony. For example, in the sentence “He lost his job and his mind,” the word “lost” is used as a past tense verb in relation to the job, but as an adjective in relation to the mind.
This creates a humorous effect by suggesting that the speaker’s mind was somehow misplaced or missing.
Overall, syllepsis is a versatile and interesting figure of speech that can add depth and complexity to a sentence.
By using a single word in multiple ways, writers and speakers can create layers of meaning and create a more engaging experience for their audience.
Sylllepsis is a rhetorical figure that occurs when a word modifies two or more words in different ways.
For example, “I saw the man with binoculars” uses the same word, “saw” to describe two different actions: one where you see something and another where you are seen.
A common example of syllepsis is when someone says, “That’s not my book!” because he doesn’t mean it’s not his book at all—he means that it’s not his book right now (because he lent it to someone).
Some Syllepsis Examples
Now that you know what syllepsis is, it’s time to see how it works in real life. Let’s look at some examples of how syllepsis works in practice.
- “The president, vice president and CEO were all seated around the table.” – This example has three nouns used in a way that makes them seem like one word. Each noun modifies the other two items in the sentence. The meaning stays consistent throughout because all three items are being described as being part of this group (the president and vice president are both part of leadership).
- “I’m going home for Thanksgiving break.” – In this example, “home” is an intransitive verb (meaning it doesn’t have a direct object) that can be used as either a verb or an adverb depending on whether or not you use a preposition after it: “I am going home”; “I am leaving work early today.” But here we see two different ways of using this single word—as an adverb that modifies “break” (describing where you go during your vacation), as well as describing where you live when not taking breaks from school/work! As long as each use falls within these guidelines (the same part of speech and same meaning), then they’re both fine uses of syllepsis!
Types of Syllepsis
To understand what syllepsis is, you need to know a little bit about rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of using language to persuade someone, and it’s been around since ancient Greece (and possibly even further back).
A rhetorical figure is a device used in writing that achieves a specific effect. For example:
- Anadiplosis uses repetition of words at the end of clauses or phrases for emphasis. In other words, when you see “the same word repeated twice” at the end of sentences, that’s anadiplosis!
- Epanalepsis uses repetition of words in conclusion and beginning for emphasis on both ends. This can be seen in phrases such as “If I say this once more…” or “I’m not going to repeat myself again.” It can also be used in proverbs like “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Syllepsis – Wrapping Up
That’s all there is to it! Don’t let syllepsis intimidate you. Just remember that it’s a rhetorical figure that involves a word modifying two or more words in different ways. That means it can be used in any kind of writing, whether formal or informal.
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