There is a technique used occasionally in (often comic) writing, whereby two different meanings of the same word are combined in a sentence to create a sense of surprise in the reader.

My particular favourite comes from the Flanders and Swann song "Madeira M'Dear" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW_zi8n4HDQ):

"And he said as he hastened to put out the cat, the wine, his cigar and the lamps"

(So the cat is removed, the wine is brought in, and the cigar and lamps are extinguished)

Is there a proper name for this as a literary device?

  • My favorite is "She left in a huff and a sedan chair". May 17, 2016 at 17:10
  • Look up 'zeugma' here; 'syllepsis' is arguably a synonym. May 17, 2016 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


This device, whereby a single word modifies more than one element, each with a different meaning, is called a semantic syllepsis, or zeugma.

However, there isn't an absolute consensus on the definitions, so I recommend consulting the wiki article on zeugma

A similar device, but where the same word is repeated throughout the sentence, is called an antanaclasis.

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