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Hendiadys (/hɛnˈd.ədɨs/; a Latinized form of the Greek phrase ἓν διὰ δυοῖν, hèn dià duoîn, "one through two") is a figure of speech used for emphasis — "The substitution of a conjunction for a subordination". The basic idea is to use two words linked by the conjunction "and" instead of the one modifying the other.

English names for hendiadys include two for one and figure of twinnes.

Use and effect[edit]

The typical result of a hendiadys is to transform a noun-plus-adjective into two nouns joined by a conjunction. For example, sound and fury (from act V, scene 5 of Macbeth) seems to offer a more striking image than "furious sound". In this example, as typically, the subordinate idea originally present in the adjective is transformed into a noun in and of itself. Another example is Dieu et mon droit, present in the coat of arms of the United Kingdom. In fact, hendiadys is most effective in English when the adjective and noun form of the word are identical. Thus "the cold wind went down the hall" becomes the cold and the wind went down the hall. He came despite the rain and weather instead of "He came despite the rainy weather".

Two verbs (as in the case of a catenative verb) can be so joined: come and get it (also come get it) and Fowler says that try and... for "try to..." is a "true example" of hendiadys.[1]

The conjunction may be elided (parataxis): This coffee is nice and hot can become This is nice hot coffee; in both cases one is saying that the coffee is hot to a nice degree, not that the coffee itself is nice.

When hendiadys fails in its effects, it can sound merely redundant. For example, cum amicitia atque pace, literally with friendship and peace, is often translated instead as "with peaceful friendship".

In classical and biblical literature[edit]

Hendiadys is often used in Latin poetry. There are many examples in Virgil's Aeneid, e.g., Book 1, line 54: vinclis et carcere, literally translated as "with chains and prison" but the phrase means "with prison chains".

One of the most famous lines of Juvenal's Satires is panem et circenses, commonly translated as "bread and circuses", which describes the only joy of the Roman people, and has now developed into a common idiom to denote mindless amusement. Similarly this is parodied by Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols: "There is an artist after my own heart modest in his needs: he really wants only two things, his bread and his art - panem et circen".

Exodus 15:4 markəbǒt par‘õh wəhêlô the chariots of Pharaoh and his army for "the chariots of Pharaoh's army" [2]

In Leviticus 25:47, the Hebrew says ger v'toshav, literally translated as "the alien and the resident", but the phrase means a "resident alien".

In Lamentations 2:9, the Hebrew says ibbad v'shibar, literally translated as "ruined and broken", but the phrase means "totally destroyed".

In Isaiah 4:5 cloud and smoke for cloud of smoke"[3]

In The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, it occurs at 4.1.36, when Shylock says, "to have the due and forfeit of my bond".

See also[edit]

  • Hendiatris, one through three does not have a subordination of parts
  • Litotes, a form of understatement for emphasis
  • Contrast with merism, a figure of speech in which a whole is indicated by a brief enumeration of parts


  1. ^ page 245 entry hendiadys in Burchfield, Robert William (1996). The New Fowler's Modern English Usage (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-198-69126-2. OCLC 36063311. 
  2. ^ page 121 in J. Kenneth Kuntz (2005). "Hendiadys as an Agent of Rhetorical Enrichment in Biblical Poetry, With Special Reference to Prophetic Discourse". In Deborah L. Ellens, J. Harold Ellens, Isaac Kalimi, Rolf Knierim. God's Word for Our World 1. New York: T & T Clark International. pp. 114–135. ISBN 0826469744. No less prominent is the first of several hendiadyadic elements that significantly enrich the poetic discourse in the Song of the Sea (Exod. 15.1-18). 
  3. ^ Delitzsch, Franz (1890). Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah 1. James Denney, translator. New York: Funk and Wagnalls. p. 143. 

Further reading[edit]