Often in the Bible (particularly the Hebrew portions) a certain figure of speech is used in which two extremes are given to represent the whole. I can't remember what it is called. Examples include things like:

He read this to the young and the old alike

Receive blessings from the heavens above and the depths beneath

Everyone shall eat the passover, both slave and free

Obey these laws in your going out and coming in, your rising and lying down

From Dan to Beersheba

Summer and Winter, Rain and Harvest


These are not literal citations but are examples similar to expressions commonly used. This idiomatic form of speech is just about everywhere when you think to look for it. But what is it called?

  • Stack Exchange - English Language & Usage merism
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


The term you are looking for is 'merism'. Technically, a merism is a particular kind of synecdoche. A merism indicates an entire spectrum of an ens by listing its polar elements.

Some biblical examples of this poetry device in Jos 6:26 (eg: all his sons); 1 Chr 29:29 (eg: all the things David did); Psa 121:6 (eg: you are safe 24 hours a day); 139:2 (eg: you know everything I do).

I hope you find these examples useful.

  • I'm going to mark this correct as the first answer to give me the word I'm looking for, but it pains me to accept an answer with such poor grammar...
    – Truth
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 2:31
  • 2
    Sorry for my wobbly English. Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 6:42
  • 1
    @Truth This is a global website open to all English speakers, some of whom have English as their second, or even third language. 'Poor grammar' is not always a deliberate fault, but bad manners always is.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 15:04
  • 2
    @Truth - fortunately, we have a "edit" button to help with this. In addition to fixing the grammar, it allows us to welcome our friends who may not be native English speakers and, as an added bonus, provide them with some useful pointers to improve their English skills. Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 19:30
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    @James Shewey - Forgive me if I'm rude. It is unintended. Perhaps I need brushing up on my SO etiquette. I'm always hesitant to edit someone else's work for fear of overstepping my bounds.
    – Truth
    Commented Dec 27, 2019 at 14:22

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