Definition and Examples of Diazeugma

Writer Kurt Busiek relies on diazeugma to describe the fictional character Spider-Man: "He tries and fails and makes mistakes, and figures out how to do better and fixes things" (quoted by Russell Dalton in Marvelous Myths, 2011). (Marvel Comics)

Diazeugma is a rhetorical term for a sentence construction in which a single subject is accompanied by multiple verbs. Also called the play-by-play or multiple yoking.

The verbs in a diazeugma are usually arranged in a parallel series.

Brett Zimmerman points out that diazeugma is "an effective way to emphasize action and to help ensure a swift pace to the narrative--a sense of many things happening, and quickly" (Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric and Style, 2005).


From the Greek, "disjoining"

Examples and Observations

"The seven of us discussed, argued, tried, failed, tried again."
(Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man's Fear. DAW, 2011)
"Swallows dart, dip, dive, swiftly pluck perching insects from slow-moving current."
(Robert Watts Handy, River Raft Pack of Weeping Water Flat. Writer's Showcase, 2001)
"Reality demands that you look at the present, and doesn't have time for illusion. Reality lives, loves, laughs, cries, shouts, gets angry, bleeds, and dies, sometimes all in the same instant."
(Allen Martin Bair, The Rambles of a Wandering Priest. WestBow Press, 2011
"Immigrants contribute economically, politically and culturally to American society in the same way native-born Americans do: they go to work or school, raise their children, pay taxes, serve in the military, hold public office, volunteer in the community, and so on."
(Kimberley Hicks, How to Communicate With Your Spanish & Asian Employees. Atlantic Publishing, 2004)

The Play-by-Play Figure

"Another figure of speech makes one noun serve a cluster of verbs. Hockey announcers use this figure, multiple yoking, when they do play-by-play:
Announcer: Labombier takes the puck, gets it past two defenders, shoots . . . misses . . . shoots again, goal!
Multiple yoking, the play-by-play figure. Formal name: diazeugma."
(Jay Heinrichs, Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion. Three Rivers Press, 2007)
"'Used to' and 'would' are good for long series of verbs:
On weekdays he used to/would get up, make the breakfast, do the washing-up, pack his sandwiches, put the bins out, say goodbye to his wife and go to work."
(Paul Lambotte, Harry Campbell, and John Potter, Aspects of Modern English Usage for Advanced Students. De Boeck Supérieur, 1998

Shakespeare's Use of Diazeugma

"My lord, we have
Stood here observing him: Some strange commotion
Is in his brain: he bites his lip, and starts;
Stops on a sudden, looks upon the ground,
Then, lays his finger on his temple; straight,
Springs out into fast gait; then, stops again,
Strikes his breast hard
; and anon, he casts
His eye against the moon: in most strange postures
We have seen him set himself."
(Norfolk in William Shakespeare's Henry VIII, Act Three, scene 2

Whitman's Use of Diazeugma

"As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon . . .."
(Walt Whitman, "Miracles")



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Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Diazeugma." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Nordquist, Richard. (2021, February 16). Definition and Examples of Diazeugma. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Diazeugma." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).