Difference Between Metaphor and Metonymy

Main Difference – Metaphor vs Metonymy

Metaphor and Metonymy are two commonly used literary devices in literature. Metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two unrelated subjects without the use of connecting words like “like” or “as.” Metonymy is a figure of speech in which the name of an idea or object is substituted for another name that the original name is closely associated with. The main difference between metaphor and metonymy is that metaphor compares two things whereas metonymy replaces one thing for another.

What is a Metaphor

A metaphor is a literary device that makes a comparison between two unrelated things. The term metaphor actually comes from Greek metaphorá which literally means carrying over. As this name implies, metaphor transfers meaning from one object to another so that the second object can be understood in a new way. The comparison made by a metaphor is indirect, implied or hidden. Unlike similes, it does not use connecting works such as like, or as. The following examples will help you to comprehend the function and the nature of metaphors.

“Books are the mirrors of the soul.”― Virginia Woolf

“Dying is a wild night and a new road.” – Emily Dickinson

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”― Truman Capote

“The rain came down in long knitting needles.” – Enid BagnoldDifference Between Metaphor and Metonymy

What is Metonymy

The term metonymy comes from Greek, meta and ononma, which literally means substituting of a name. This figure of speech also has a similar function; it substitutes the name of an idea with another name that the original name is closely associated with. For example, grey hair can be used to mean old age, and throne can be used to mean monarchy. Metonymy is used in literature as well as in everyday life. For example, you must have heard of the saying “pen is mightier than the sword.” This is an example of metonymy; pen represents the written word, and sword represents physical fighting.

Given below are some examples of the use of metonymy in literature

       ” Sceptre and Crown            

        Must tumble down,       

  And in the dust be equal made       

With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.”    

– Death the Leveller by James Shirley

“As he swung toward them holding up the hand

Half in appeal, but half as if to keep

The life from spilling”

– Robert Frost’s Out Out

“The party preserved a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the function of representing the staid nobility of the countryside—East Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its spectroscopic gayety.”

 – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldDifference Between Metaphor and Metonymy

Difference Between Metaphor and Metonymy


Metaphor is a literary device where a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

Metonymy is a literary device that involves the substitution of a name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant.


Metaphor compares two unrelated concepts.

Metonymy substitutes the thing named for the thing meant.Difference Between Metaphor and Metonymy- infographic

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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