Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

syllepsis

play
noun, syl·lep·sis \sə-ˈlep-səs\

Definition of syllepsis

plural syllepsesplay \-ˌsēz\

  1. 1 :  the use of a word to modify or govern syntactically two or more words with only one of which it formally agrees in gender, number, or case

  2. 2 :  the use of a word in the same grammatical relation to two adjacent words in the context with one literal and the other metaphorical in sense

sylleptic play \-ˈlep-tik\ adjective


Did You Know?

Charles Dickens made good use of syllepsis in The Pickwick Papers when he wrote that his character Miss Bolo "went straight home, in a flood of tears and a sedan chair." Such uses are humorously incongruous, but they’re not grammatically incorrect. Syllepsis as defined at sense 1, however, is something to be generally avoided. For example, take this sentence, "She exercises to keep healthy and I to lose weight." The syllepsis occurs with the verb exercises. The problem is that only one subject, "she" (not "I"), agrees with the verb. The word syllepsis derives from the Greek syllēpsis, and ultimately from syllambanein, meaning "to gather together." It has been used in English since at least 1550.

Origin of syllepsis

Latin, from Greek syllēpsis, from syllambanein


First Known Use: circa 1550

Rhymes with syllepsis


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up syllepsis? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

the range of perception or understanding

Get Word of the Day daily email!