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Metonymy

 

Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Metonymy

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Metonymy is the use of one item's name to represent another item. In particular the representing item usually has a close association with the represented item. 

Example

Henry invaded France. (Henry represents Britain)

The pen is mightier than the sword. (Pen represents words. Sword represents military power).

I'll just Google it. (using Google instead of search).

Discussion

Metonymy is quite close to metaphor, but with a more specific use. Metonymy uses names, whilst metaphor can indicate any representation.

Metonymy substitutes the contained for
the container, the effect for the cause. The connection may sometimes be rather distance, as in metalepsis.

Metonymy can be used in a number of associations, for example:

  • Cause represents effect
  • Container represents the contained
  • A greater thing represents a smaller thing
  • An author represents the book
  • The sign represents the signified

A common use of metonymy is in synecdoche, where a part represents the whole, for example the monarch being described as 'the crown'.

Metonymy comes from the Greek 'metonymia' meaning 'a change of name'.

Classification: Substitution

See also

Association principle, Metaphor, Metalepsis, Catachresis, Synecdoche

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