ZEUGMA: or, Unequal Yoke

Zeug'-ma. Greek (ζεῦγμα, a yoke; from ζεύγνυμι, zeugnumi), to join or yoke together.

This name is given to the figure, because one verb is yoked on to two subjects while grammatically it strictly refers only to one of them: The two subjects properly require two different verbs. This figure, therefore, differs from one of the ordinary forms of Ellipsis, where one of the two verbs is omitted which belongs to only one clause. (See under Relative Ellipsis, page 62.)

The second verb is omitted, and the grammatical law is broken, in order that our attention may be attracted to the passage, and that we may thus discover that the emphasis is to be placed on the verb that is used, and not be distracted from it by the verb that is omitted. Though the law of grammar is violated, it is not "bad grammar"; for it is broken with design, legitimately broken, under the special form, usage, or figure, called ZEUGMA.

So perfectly was this figure studied and used by the Greeks, that they gave different names to its various forms, according to the position of the verb or yoke in the sentence. There are four forms of Zeugma:

1. PROTOZEUGMA, ante-yoke. Latin, INJUNCTUM, joined together.

2. MESOZEUGMA, middle-yoke. Latin, CONJUNCTUM, joined with.

3. HYPOZEUGMA, end-yoke; or subjoined.

4. SYNEZEUGMENON, connected-yoke. Latin, ADJUNC-TUM, joined together.


Pro'-to-zeug'-ma, from πρώτον (prō'-ton), the first, or the beginning,and Zeugma: meaning yoked at the beginning; because the verb, which is thus unequally yoked, is placed at the beginning of the sentence. Hence, it was called also ANTEZEUGMENON, i.e., yoked before (from the Latin, ante, before), or ante-yoked. Another name was PROEPIZEUXIS (pro'-ep'-i-zeux-is), yoked upon before (from πρό Changed per the hardcopy errata page. Original = "προ". (pro), before, and ἐπί (epi), upon).

The Latins called it INJUNCTUM, i.e., joined, or yoked to, from in, and jugum, a yoke (from jungo, to join).

Gen. 4:20.—"And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents and cattle."

Here the verb "dwell" is placed before "tents "and "cattle," with both of which it is yoked, though it is accurately appropriate only to "tents," and not to "cattle." The verb "possess" would be more suitable for cattle. And this is why the figure is a kind of Ellipsis, for the verse if completed would read," he was the father of such as dwell in tents [and possess] cattle." But how stilted and tame compared with the figure which bids us throw the emphasis on the fact that he was a nomade (‏יָבָל‎, a wanderer or nomade), and cared more for wandering about than for the shepherd part of his life!

The has supplied the verb in italics:—"[such as have] cattle," as though it were a case of ordinary Ellipsis. The supplies the second verb "have."

It may be, however, that the sense is better completed by taking the words ‏וְאָהֳלֵי מִקְנֶה‎ (vahaley michneh), tents of cattle, as in 2 Chron. 14:14, i.e., cattle-tents, i.e., herdsmen. Or, as in Gen. 46:32, 34, by supplying the Ellipsis:—"Such as dwell in tents and [men of] cattle," i.e., herdsmen. So that the sense would be much the same.

Ex. 3:16.—"I have surely visited you, and that which is done to you in Egypt." We are thus reminded that it was not merely that Jehovah had seen that which they had suffered, but rather had visited because of His covenant with their fathers.

The and both supply the second verb: "[seen] that which is done to you, etc."

It may be that the verb ‏פָּקַד‎ (pachad), though used only once, should be repeated (by implication) in another sense, which it has, viz.: "I have surely visited (i.e., looked after or cared for) you, and [visited] (i.e., punished for) that which is done to you in Egypt)." The two senses being to go to with the view of helping; and to go for or against with the view of punishing, which would be the figure of Syllepsis ().

Deut. 4:12.—"And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of words, but saw no similitude, only a voice."

The and supply the second verb "[heard] only a voice." The figure shows us that all the emphasis is to be placed on the fact that no similitude was seen; thus idolatry was specially condemned.

The word "idol" means, literally, something that is seen, and thus all worship that involves the use of sight, and indeed, of any of the senses (hence called sensuous worship), rather than the heart, partakes of the nature of idolatry, and is abomination in the sight of God.

2 Kings 11:12.—"And he brought forth the king's son, and put the crown upon him, and the testimony." (2 Chron. 23:11).

Here the and supply the second verb, "gave him the testimony." If it were a simple Ellipsis, we might instead supply in his hand after the word "testimony." But it is rather the figure of Zeugma, by which our attention is called to the importance of the "testimony" under such circumstances (see Deut. 17:19) rather than to the mere act of the giving it.

Isa. 2:3.—"Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob," i.e., [and let us enter into] the house of the God of Jacob.

Luke 24:27.—"And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."

Here the verb "beginning" suits, of course, only "Moses"; and some such verb as going through would be more appropriate; as he could not begin at all the" prophets."

This figure tells us that it is not the act which we are to think of, but the books and the Scripture that we are to emphasize as being the subject of the Risen Lord's exposition.

1 Cor. 3:2.—"I have fed you with milk, and not with meat." Here the verb is ποτίζω, to give drink, and it suits the subject, "milk," but not "meat." Hence the emphasis is not so much on the feeding as on the food, and on the contrast between the "milk" and the "meat." The avoids the figure by giving the verb a neutral meaning. See how tame the passage would have been had it read: "I have given you milk to drink and not meat to eat"! All the fire and force and emphasis would have been lost, and we might have mistakenly put the emphasis on the verbs instead of on the subjects: while the figure would have been a Pleonasm () instead of a Zeugma.

1 Cor. 7:10.—"And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord."

Here the one verb is connected with the two objects: but we are, by this figure, shown that it is connected affirmatively with the Lord, and only negatively with the apostle.

1 Cor. 14:34.—"For it is not permitted them to speak; but to be under authority."

This has been treated as a simple Ellipsis: but the unequal yoke (Zeugma) is seen, the one verb being used for the two opposite things; thus emphasizing the fact that it is not so much the permitting, or the commanding, which is important, but the act of speaking, and the condition of being under authority.

1 Tim. 4:3.—"Forbidding to marry and to abstain from meats." This has been classed already under Ellipsis; but the Zeugma is also seen; emphasizing the fact that it is celibacy and abstinence which are to be noted as the marks of the latter times rather than the mere acts of "forbidding" or commanding. The latter verb, which is omitted, is supplied by Paronomasia (), "forbidding κωλυόντων, kōluontōn),to marry, and [commanding (κελευόντων, keleuontōn)],etc."


Mes-o-zeug-ma, i.e., middle-yoke, from μέσος (mesos), middle. The Zeugma is so-called when the verb or adjective occurs in the middle of the sentence.

The Latins called it CONJ UNCTU M, joined-together-with.

Mark 13:26.—"Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory."

Here in the Greek the adjective is put between the two nouns, thus: "Power, great, and glory," and it applies to both in a peculiar manner. This Zeugma calls our attention to the fact that the power will be great and the glory will be great: and this more effectually emphasizes the greatness of both, than if it had been stated in so many words.

So also 5:40, "The father of the child and the mother"; (verse 42)" Arose the damsel and walked."

Luke 1:64.—"And his mouth was opened immediately and his tongue, and he spake and praised God."

Here it is not the act of the opening and loosing that we are to think of, but the fact that through this predicted miracle he praised God with his mouth and his tongue in spite of all the months of his enforced silence.


Hy'-po-zeug'ma, i.e., end-yoke, from ὑπό (hupo or hypo), underneath. Hence ὑποζεύγνυμι (hypozeugnumi), to yoke under. The figure of Zeugma is so called when the verb is at the end of the sentence, and so underneath, the two objects.

Acts 4:27, 28.—"They were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done."

Here the verb "determined" relates only to "counsel" and not to "hand": and shows us that we are to place the emphasis on the fact that, though the power of God's hand was felt sooner than His counsel (as Bengel puts it), yet even this was only in consequence of His own determinate counsel and foreknowledge. Compare chap. 2:23, and 3:18.


Syn'-e-zeug-men-on, i.e., yoked together with, or yoked connectedly, from σύν (sun or syn), together with, and ζεύγνυμι, to yoke.

This name is given to the Zeugma when the verb is joined to more than two clauses, each of which would require its own proper verb in order to complete the sense. On the other hand, when in a succession of clauses each subject has its own proper verb, expressed instead of being understood, then it is called HYPOZEUXIS (Hy'-po-zcux'-is), i.e., sub-connection with. See Ps. 145:5-7. 1 Cor. 13:8. Where several members, which at first form one sentence, are unyoked and separated into two or more clauses, the figure is called DIEZEUGMENON, Di'-e-zeug'-men-on, i.e., yoked-through, from διά (dia), through. This was called by the Latins DISJUNCTIO. See under Prosapodosis. By the Latins it was called ADJUNC-TUM, i.e., joined together.

Ex. 20:18.—"And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking." How tame this would be if the proper verbs had been expressed in each case 1 The verb "saw" is appropriate to the "lightnings" and "mountain." And by the omission of the second verb "heard" we are informed that the people were impressed by what they saw, rather than by what they heard.

Ps. 15.—Here the whole of the objects in verses 2-5 are connected with one verb which occurs in the last verse (repeated from first verse). All the sentences in verses 2-5 are incomplete. There is the Ellipsis of the verb, e.g., verse 2: "He that walketh uprightly [shall abide in thy tabernacle and shall never be moved], he that worketh righteousness [shall never be moved]," etc.

This gives rise to, or is the consequence of the structure of the Psalm:—

A 1. Who shall abide? (stability).
B a 2. Positive qualities
b 3. Negative
B a 4- Positive
b -4-5- Negative
A -5. Who shall abide? (stability).

Eph. 4:31.—"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and .evil speaking, be put away from you."

Here the one verb "put away," αἴρω (airō), is used of all these various subjects, though it does not apply equally to each: e.g., "bitterness," πικρία (pikria), the opposite of "kindness," verse 32; "wrath," θυμός (thumos), harshness, the opposite of "tender-hearted," verse 32; "anger," ὀργή (orgee), the opposite of "forgiving," verse 32; "clamour," κραυγή (kraugee), "evil-speaking," βλασφημία (blasphemia)," malice," κακία (kakia), wickedness.

It is the thing we are not to be, that is important, rather than the act of giving it up. (See the same passage under Polysyndeton).

Phil. 3:10.—"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death."

Here the one verb "know "properly refers to" Him." The verbs suited to the other subjects are not expressed, in order that we may not be diverted by other action from the one great fact of our knowledge of Him. "That I may know Him (is the one great object, but to know Him I must experience) the power of His resurrection, and (to feel this I must first share) the fellowship of His sufferings (How? by) being made like Him in His death," i.e., by reckoning myself as having died with Christ (Rom. 6:11), and been planted together in the likeness of His death (verse 5). So only can I know the power of that new resurrection life which I have as "risen with Christ," enabling me .to "walk in newness of life," and thus to "know Him."

The order of thought is introverted in verses 10 and 11.





And resurrection, though mentioned first, cannot be known until fellowship with His sufferings and conformity to His death have been experienced by faith. Then the power of His resurrection which it exercises on the new life can be known; and we can know Him only in what God has made Christ to be to His people, and what He has made His people to be in Christ.