Hendiadys: Definition and Examples

Hendiadys (derives from Greek, Literally means “one by means of two”), is a figure solely for the presentation of a grammatical syntax in which two independent words (usually nouns), separated by the conjunction “and” are employed to express a single idea.

For example:

“He came despite the rain and weather

Instead of the usual combination of an independent word and its modifier, which in this case, would be:

“He came despite the rainy weather.”

With Hendiadys, the two words employed are the same part of speechOpens in new window (i.e., two nouns, two verbs, etc.), and if they are nouns, they are always in the same caseOpens in new window. The figure Hendiadys places equal emphasis on both words conjoined by the “and,” whereas if the concept was rendered literally, such as “rainy weather,” the emphasis of the phrase is on the noun, not the modifier.

ShakespeareOpens in new window often use hendiadys with a structure that range from simple to profound. Particularly in Shakespeare’s tragicomedy “Cymbeline” Opens in new window, the villain Iachimo is quoted saying:

“The heaviness and guilt within my bosom takes off my manhood”.

Here an increased emphasis is achieved through the use of two nouns (‘heaviness’ and ‘guilt’) for the more conventional combination involving a noun and its modifier. Likewise, the singular verb effectively yokes the nouns and creates in us the assumption that heavy guilt is intended. With hendiadys employed, the collocation is simple, and yet effective.

Examples of Hendiadys

Hendiadys Collocation

This coffee is nice and hot.

Normal Collocation

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.

Hendiadys collocation

The cold and the wind went down the hall.

Normal collocation

The cold wind went down the hall.

Here, the adjectival and nominal forms of the word are identical; when this occur in English language it makes the hendiadys more effective).

Hendiadys collocation

Whatever you pray and ask.

Normal collocation

Whatever you ask in prayer.

In this given instance, we see two words being employed but only one idea is expressed. One of the words expresses the idea, and the other intensifies it by being changed into an adjective of the superlative degree which is primarily a medium of reinforcing emphasis on the idea.

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  • References
    • Brongers, ‘Merismus, Synekdoche und Hendiadys’, p. 110.
    • Thomas O. Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), p 238-40.
    • Melamed, E.Z. ‘Break-Up of Stereotype Phrases as an Artistic Device in Biblical Poetry’, ScrH 8 (1961) 115-53

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