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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Metonymy \Me*ton"y*my\ (m[-e]*t[o^]n"[i^]*m[y^]; 277), n. [L. metonymia, Gr. metwnymi`a; meta`, indicating change + 'o`nyma, for 'o`noma a name: cf. F. m['e]tonymie. See Name.] (Rhet.) A trope in which one word is put for another that suggests it; as, we say, a man keeps a good table instead of good provisions; we read Virgil, that is, his poems; a man has a warm heart, that is, warm affections; a city dweller has no wheels, that is, no automobile.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1560s, from French m├ętonymie (16c.) and directly from Late Latin metonymia, from Greek metonymia, literally "a change of name," related to metonomazein "to call by a new name; to take a new name," from meta- "change" (see meta-) + onyma, dialectal form of onoma "name" (see name (n.)). Figure in which the name of one thing is used in place of another that is\nsuggested by or associated with it (such as the Kremlin for "the Russian government"). Related: Metonymic; metonymical.\n


n. 1 The use of a single characteristic or name of an object to identify an entire object or related object. 2 (context countable English) A metonym.


n. substituting the name of an attribute or feature for the name of the thing itself (as in `they counted heads')


Metonymy is a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name, rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept. The words metonymy and metonym come from the , , "a change of name", from , , "after, beyond" and , , a suffix used to name figures of speech, from , or , , "name".

The location of a capital is often used as a metonym for a government, for example: Brussels for the government of the European Union, Nairobi for the government of Kenya, or Beacon Hill for the government of the U.S. state of Massachusetts. A place can represent an entire industry, as how Wall Street is often used metonymically to describe the entire U.S. financial and corporate banking sector. Common nouns can also be metonyms, as how red tape can stand in for an entire bureaucratic process, whether or not that process actually involves physical tape.

Metonymy and related figures of speech are common in everyday talk and writing. Synecdoche and metalepsis are considered specific types of metonymy. Polysemy, multiple meanings of a single word or phrase, sometimes results from relations of metonymy. Both metonymy and metaphor involve the substitution of one term for another. In metaphor, this substitution is based on some specific analogy between two things, whereas in metonymy the substitution is based on some understood association or contiguity.

American literary theorist Kenneth Burke described metonymy as one of four "master tropes": metaphor, a substitute for perspective; metonymy, a substitute for reduction; synecdoche, a substitute for representation; and irony, a substitute for dialectic. He described these tropes and the way they overlap in A Grammar of Motives.

In addition to its use in everyday speech, metonymy is a figure of speech in some poetry and in much rhetoric. Greek and Latin scholars of rhetoric made significant contributions to the study of metonymy.

Usage examples of "metonymy".

We can recognize here the three great figures of rhetoric: synecdoche, metonymy, catachresis.

Hades by metonymy for the grave, or have imagined that a shadowy fac simile of what was interred in the grave went into the grim kingdom of Pluto.

As stars flash into light, so he flashes into metaphor, metonymy, trope, personification, or simile.

Throughout, the metaphor of brother against brother is a kind of metonymy for civil butchery in which family members slaughter one another in a grim contest of reciprocity.

In metonymy one thing represents another by means of the part standing for the whole.

Simile, Metaphor, Personification, Allegory, Synechdoche, Metonymy, Exclamation, Hyperbole, Apostrophe, Vision, Antithesis, Climax, Epigram, Interrogation and Irony.

Yes, by the deformity of certain terms, we recognize the fact that it was chewed by Mandrin, and by the splendor of certain metonymies, we feel that Villon spoke it.