zeug·​ma | \ ˈzüg-mə How to pronounce zeugma (audio) \

Definition of zeugma

: the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words usually in such a manner that it applies to each in a different sense or makes sense with only one (as in "opened the door and her heart to the homeless boy")

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Zeugma, like the pun, is economical: it contracts two sentences into one . . . it links unrelated terms - mental with moral, abstract with physical, high with low - and thus generates surprise. (Walter Redfern, Puns) "Zeugma," which has been a part of the English language since the 15th century, comes from Greek, where it literally means "joining." The Greek word has another connection to English as well. In the early 1970s, a chemistry professor named Paul Lauterbur developed a technique for producing images of internal organs. He called it "zeugmatography," because it involved the joining of magnetic fields. Lauterbur was awarded a Nobel Prize, but the name he chose didn’t stick. The technique is known today as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.

First Known Use of zeugma

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for zeugma

Middle English zeuma, from Medieval Latin, from Latin zeugma, from Greek, literally, joining, from zeugnynai to join; akin to Latin jungere to join — more at yoke

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The first known use of zeugma was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Zeugma.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zeugma. Accessed 29 Jun. 2022.

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