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Hendiadys (/hɛnˈd.ədɪs/) 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 twins. Although the underlying Greek phrase is ἓν διὰ δυοῖν (hen dia duoin), '''one through two''', the only other forms occasionally found in English are '''hendiaduo''' and '''hendiaduous''', the latter of which the 17th-century English Biblical commentator Matthew Poole used in his commentary on Genesis 3:16, Proverbs 1:6, and Isaiah 19:20.[1]

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 adjectival and nominal forms 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 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 in American English) and Fowler says that try and... for "try to..." is a "true example" of hendiadys.[2] The etymology of try and... is explained in a "Usage Note" in the online Merriam Webster Dictionary[3]

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 would be nice even if cold.

When hendiadys fails in its effects, it can sound merely redundant. For example, the Latin grade cum amicitia atque pace, literally with friendship and peace, which originally contained hendiadys for emphasis, is often translated instead as "with peaceful friendship", which lacks hendiadys, and can therefore be interpreted to lack the same emphasis as the original phrase.

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".

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

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

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, the phrase literally translated as a cloud by day, and smoke is sometimes interpreted as a hendiadys meaning "a cloud of smoke by day".[5]

In Mark 11:24, the Greek says "ὅσα προσεύχεσθε καὶ αἰτεῖσθε", literally translated as "whatever you pray and ask", but the phrase means "whatever you ask in prayer".[6]

William Shakespeare uses hendiadys throughout his canon, most notably in Hamlet where their use is replete. When cautioning his sister Ophelia, Laertes makes use of this rhetorical trope repeatedly with "safety and health" (1.3.20), "voice and yielding" (1.3.22), and "morn and liquid dew" (1.3.41). Perhaps the most famous use of hendiadys in the play is Hamlet's own "Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I” (2.2.538).

As linguistic terminology in describing Turkic languages[edit]

Hendiadys is the preferred terminology used to describe some types of compounding in Turkic linguistics. Johanson, in his discussion of Turkic compounding, considers compounds of synonymous components to be hendiadys:

The asyndetic type noun + noun is also used in coordinative compounds, so-called twin words or binomes. In this case, two parallel nouns with similar meanings form a synonym compound, hendiadys, ...or a hyponym compound to express a higher concept...[7]

See also[edit]

Hendiadys is different from these:

  • Hendiatris, one through three does not have a subordination of parts
  • Irreversible binomial, word pairs of collocation in which the order of the words cannot be reversed
  • Litotes, a form of understatement for emphasis
  • Merism, a figure of speech in which a whole is indicated by a brief enumeration of parts
  • Legal doublets, which are the conjoining of two synonymous words


  1. ^ Matthew Poole's Commentaries on Genesis 3, Proverbs 1, and Isaiah 19, accessed 14 November 2015
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Merriam Webster Dictionary Words at Play "We're Going to Explain the Deal with 'Try And' and 'Try To'"
  4. ^ 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 (eds.). God's Word for Our World. Vol. 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).
  5. ^ Delitzsch, Franz (1890). Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah. Vol. 1. James Denney, translator. New York: Funk and Wagnalls. p. 143.
  6. ^ Zerwick, Maximilian, Joseph Smith (transl). Biblical Greek Illustrated by Examples. Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici. Rome, 1963. §460
  7. ^ Johanson, Lars (1998). The Turkic languages. Johanson, Lars, 1936-, Csató, Éva Ágnes. London: Routledge. pp. 50. ISBN 978-0415412612. OCLC 908192061.

Further reading[edit]

  • Smyth, Herbert Weir (1920). Greek Grammar. Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 678. ISBN 0-674-36250-0.
  • Wright, George T. (1981). "Hendiadys and Hamlet". Publications of the Modern Language Association of America. 96 (2): 168–93. doi:10.2307/461987. JSTOR 461987. Reprinted in George T. Wright, Hearing the Measures: Shakespearean and Other Inflections (The University of Wisconsin Press, 2001).
  • Wallace, Daniel B. (1996). Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. pp. 276–7. ISBN 0-310-21895-0.