Say, for example, you and a group of people were all sailing out in the ocean and something happens...then you say,

"I guess we are all in the same boat"

You are literally in the same boat with everyone else, and your current situation is the same as everyone else.

Now such a phrase can be applied literally and figuratively. I was wondering if there was a word that would mean both literally and figuratively. I know this is a tad bit of an oxymoron, but I was curious to see if there was such an "all encompassing" word for this.

  • 1
    Some suggest "true in both/all senses."
    – user39720
    Mar 23, 2014 at 18:10
  • 2
    'If you'll pardon the pun, ...' Mar 23, 2014 at 18:55
  • Isn't that (figuratively) ironic? Mar 24, 2014 at 1:49
  • I would think the figurative is usually derived from the literal, therefore literally would tend to imply figuratively. Is it feasible that people who were literally all in the same boat but would be subject to different meteorological conditions (aside from those above/below deck)?
    – Jack Ryan
    Mar 25, 2014 at 16:34

3 Answers 3


It is a syllepsis:

Syllepsis Syl*lep"sis, n. [L., fr. Gr. sy`llhpsis a taking together, from ?. See {syllable}, n.] 1. (Rhet.) A figure of speech by which a word is used in a literal and metaphorical sense at the same time. [1913 Webster]

  • 1
    It's certainly not a syllepsis. While close in meaning it actually applies to a word that applies to two separate subjects the same sentence. I still can't find a solid answer to this question, however, and something tells me French is the answer
    – user78237
    Jun 4, 2014 at 5:04
  • @user78237 Just throwing this out there: 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."
    – Chowzen
    Jan 17, 2017 at 12:50

A syllepsis is the noun. you're looking for the adverb sylleptically. meaning both, or two meanings. also I'm just throwing it out there that this is all from Archer. FTW

  • 1
    Haha yup! I heard it on that one Archer episode and here I am
    – prawn
    Nov 14, 2014 at 5:16
  • I'm collecting acronyms on EL&U.... what is FTW? Finish The W...; For The W....; What?! Don't tell me it's a typo.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 14, 2014 at 5:51
  • FTW usually means 'for the win'
    – prawn
    Nov 14, 2014 at 6:20
  • 1
    @prawn I never realized! I thought it was WTF in reverse. It makes more sense to me now! Nov 14, 2014 at 8:14

I asked the same question, also inspired by Archer. Richard on the SF&F SE pointed out that the phrase "in every sense [of the word]" fits.

  • This has already been suggested. Jul 18, 2015 at 22:07
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth - Not as an answer.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 18, 2015 at 22:09
  • user39720 probably thought the response too simple for a site for 'linguists, serious English language enthusiasts ...'. I feel that duplicating a response goes against the spirit of the site. Jul 18, 2015 at 22:19
  • @EdwinAshworth - The duplication was unintentional. Your comment called the previous suggestion to my attention. If I meant no harm, and if the duplication was coincidental, the spirit of the site has not been compromised. The person who called this phrase to my attention was Richard, a mod on the SF&F SE, and I gave him credit for it.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 18, 2015 at 22:41

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