Figure Name syllepsis
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Isidore 1.36.5-6; Mosellanus ("syllepsis' "conglutinata conceptio") a5r; Sherry (1550) 30 ("silepsis," "concepcio"); Peacham (1577) F1r; Putt. (1589) 176 ("sillepsis," "the double supply"); Day 1599 82; JG Smith (1665) ("syllepsis"); Holmes (1806) ("syllepsis"); Bullinger (1898) ("syllepsis; or, combination"); Vickers (1989) ("syllepsis")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms sillepsis, silepsis, syllempsis, conceptio, conglutinata conceptio, concepcio, double supply, change in concord, combination
Etymology from Gk. syn, "together" and lepsis, "taking"
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Lexicographic

1. When a single word that governs or modifies two or more others must be understood differently with respect to each of those words. A combination of grammatical parallelism and semantic incongruity, often with a witty or comical effect. Not to be confused with zeugma. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Comprehension: a figure of construction, when a nominative plural is joyned to a verb singular; or on the contrary: Or it is a comprehension of the more unworthy under the more worthy, &c. (JG Smith)

3. Syllepsis, in more worthy, comprehends The less; and former's preference defends Asyndeton, or (which the same implies) Dialyton the cop'lative denies. (Holmes)

4. The Repetition of the Sense without the Repetition of the Word... [see Etymology] This name is given to the figure when only one word is used, and yet it takes on two meanings at the same time. The word itself is used only once; and ought to be, but is not repeated in the next clause, being omitted by Ellipsis, but the two meanings are taken together with the one word. (Bulinger, 312)

5. Syllepsis (or conceptio), where a word is used once only but where by the context and tone two different meanings are suggested. (Vickers 498)


1. Rend your heart, and not your garments.
- Joel 2:13 (Silva Rhetoricae)

You held your breath and the door for me
- Alanis Morissette

"Fix the problem, not the blame."
- Dave Weinbaum

3. I and my brother, i.e. we, go out to play. (Holmes)

4. 2 Chron. 31:8. -"They blessed the LORD and his people Israel." Here there is a duples statement. They blessed the LORD, that is they gave Him thanks and celebrated His praises; and they blessed His People Israel; but in a different way; they prayed for all spiritual and temporal blessings for them in the name of the Lord. (Bullinger, 312)

5. Therefore I lie with her, and she with me...
--Shakespeare, "Sonnet 138" (Vickers 498)

Kind Of Opposition
Part Of
Related Figures zeugma, ellipsis, metaphor, figures of division
Notes Note: Originally, syllepsis named that grammatical incongruity resulting when a word governing two or more others could not agree with both or all of them; for example, when a singular verb serves as the predicate to two subjects, singular and plural ("His boat and his riches is sinking"). In the rhetorical sense, syllepsis has more to do with applying the same single word to the others it governs in distinct senses (e.g., literal and metaphorical); thus, "His boat and his dreams sank."; Note 2: Syllepsis is a form of ellipsis, and like ellipsis the sense of the word is repeated, but not the word itself. The difference from ellipsis is that the sense varies in its repetition. Note 3: from Gk. syn, "together" and lepsis, "taking"; Note 4: I classified this as Trope, but I also filled in "Part Of" (documentation said Part Of is usually only for Schemes). I don't know if this is correct.
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes added synonyms, related figures, types of, cleaned up formatting on quote
Reviewed No