Zeugma is a literary device in which one verb is connected with two nouns to each of which requires a separate verb.
It is an interesting literary device that uses one word to refer to two or more different things, in more than one way. Zeugmas will either confuse the reader or inspire them to think more deeply.
The word “zeugma’ is derived from Greek “zeugnumi meaning ‘yoke’ or ‘yoking.
In Zeugma, thus, one verb is connected with two nouns, to each of which a separate verb should properly be supplied.
The essential features of this figure are :
(i) There are two nouns.
(ii) One verb is connected with these two nouns.
(iii) Each of these nouns requires a separate verb.
Zeugma can be used to create drama, add emotion, or produce a level of shock value. While there can still be an underlying sense of confusion, generally, a zeugma is used purposely.
The following are the examples of this figure :
1. Banners on high and battles passed below. -Byron
In this case, one verb ‘passed’ is connected with two nouns banners and battles’, though each of which requires a separate verb.
2. Would hide her wrong and her revenge -Scott
In this case, the only verb hide is employed to serve the purpose of two nouns ‘wrong’ and ‘revenge. Each of these nouns, however, requires a separate verb.
N.B. The Zeugma looks, like the condensed sentence, but it is used chiefly in poetry, and does not, like the other figure, produce any comic effect.
3. The moment and the vessel passed. — Tennyson
This is a zeugma. Two nouns, ‘moment’ and ‘vessel’ are here connected with one verb ‘passed’, though each of them requires a separate verb.
4. The feast and noon grew high. [Two nouns, ‘feast’ and ‘noon’, are connected with one verb ‘grew’.]
5. He opened his mind and his wallet every time he went out with her.
6. He firmly held his tongue and her hand.
7. Tommy lost his wallet and his head. (The verb lost is acting with wallet and head. In this example, lost is used in two different senses. It is used in a literal sense with wallet and a figurative sense with head. This can be a useful literary technique.)
Also read: What is Couplet, Triplet, and Quatrain?