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How to distinguish synecdoche from metonymy?
Thread poster: V_iris
English to Chinese
Jul 1, 2008

I always confuse them two.The book I referred to says metonymy is a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated.Whereas synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part is substituted for the whole ,or the whole is substituted for a part.
For example:His purse would not allow him that luxury.(metonymy)
Hester Prynne is good at her needle.(synecdoche)
I would suppose needle is not part of embroidery but sth. closely associated with it.
And are they two kinds of symbolism?
Thank you if you could introduce some easy ways to tell them apart.:)

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FX Fraipont  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:58
Member (2007)
English to French

" From Phil Murphy: “Can you tell me whether the words synecdoche and metonymy mean the same thing?”

[A] Both are figures of speech used in rhetoric. They’re not the same thing, though metonymy is often interpreted so widely that synecdoche can be regarded as a special case of it.

Let’s take synecdoche first (which is pronounced as /sɪˈnɛkdəkɪ/ , by the way). You use this when you speak of a part of something but mean the whole thing. When Patrick O’Brian has Captain Jack Aubrey tell his first lieutenant to “let the hands go to dinner” he’s employing synecdoche, because he’s using a part (the hand) for the whole man. You can also reverse the whole and the part, so using a word for something when you only mean part of it. This often comes up in sport: a commentator might say that “The West Indies has lost to England” when he means that the West Indian team has lost to the English one. America is often used as synecdoche in this second sense, as the word refers to the whole continent but is frequently applied to a part of it, the USA.

Metonymy is similar, but uses something more generally or loosely associated with a concept to stand in for it. When Americans speak of the Oval Office, for example, they are really referring to the activity within it, the position or function of the President. It’s a linked term, and so a metonym. British writers refer similarly to the Crown, when they’re really discussing the powers, authority and responsibilities of the monarchy, which is symbolised by the crown. The difference between synecdoche and metonymy is that in metonymy the word you employ is linked to the concept you are really talking about, but isn’t actually a part of it. Another example is the turf for horse racing. But the distinction isn’t always obvious and often can’t be rigorously applied, and many people use metonymy to mean both."

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Rosina Peixoto  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:58
English to Spanish
+ ...
Metonymy/Synecdoche Jul 7, 2008


A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated (such as "crown" for "royalty"). Metonymy is also the rhetorical strategy of describing something indirectly by referring to things around it, such as describing someone's clothing to characterize the individual. Adjective: metonymic.

From the Greek, "change of name"

"Many standard items of vocabulary are metonymic. A red-letter day is important, like the feast days marked in red on church calendars. Red tide, the marine disease that kills fish, takes its name from the colour of one-celled, plant-like animals in the water. . . . On the level of slang, a redneck is a stereotypical member of the white rural working class in the Southern U.S., originally a reference to necks sunburned from working in the fields."
(Connie C. Eble, "Metonymy," The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992)

"The suits on Wall Street walked off with most of our savings."

"The B.L.T. left without paying."
(waitress referring to a customer)

"A metonymy neither states nor implies the connections between the objects involved in it. . . . We must already know that the objects are related, if the metonymy is to be devised or understood. Thus, metaphor creates the relation between its objects, while metonymy presupposes that relation."
(Hugh Bredin, "Metonymy," Poetics Today, 1984)


A figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole, the whole for a part, the specific for the general, the general for the specific, or the material for the thing made from it. Considered by some to be a form of metonymy. Adjective: synecdochic or synecdochal.

From the Greek, "gathering together"

Examples and Observations:

"All hands on deck."

"I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas."
(T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock")

"The daily press, the immediate media, is superb at synecdoche, at giving us a small thing that stands for a much larger thing."
(Bruce Jackson)

"Brazil won the soccer match."

Hope it helps.

[Edited at 2008-07-07 02:22]

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Tomasz Chyrzyński  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:58
Member (2012)
Polish to English
+ ...
metonymy vs synecdoche Aug 4, 2008

The West Indies has lost to England - its a metonymy, not synecdoche.

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How to distinguish synecdoche from metonymy?

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