Difference Between Metonymy and Synecdoche

Main Difference – Metonymy vs Synecdoche

Metonymy and Synecdoche are similar literary devices in which one word is used to represent another word. However, there is a subtle difference between metonymy and synecdoche. Metonymy is formed by using a new name that is related in meaning to the original thing or concept. Synecdoche is formed by using a part of something to represent the whole or vice versa. This is the main difference between metonymy and synecdoche.

What is Metonymy

Metonymy is a figure of speech in which the name of an idea or thing is substituted for another name that the original name is closely associated with. Metonymy is used both in literature and everyday life. For example,

Crown – the king/queen

White House – the President of the U.S.A

Hollywood – Celebrities

You might have heard of the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” This is an example of a metonymy. Pen refers to the written word, and the sword refers to fighting. Pen and Sword have substituted the concepts of written word and fighting, respectively.

Given below are some examples of metonymy from literature.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” – Shakespeare’s “Julies Caesar

(Ears refer to the concept of listening or paying attention.)

“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 life from spilling actually refers to the spilling of blood.)

Main Difference - Metonymy vs Synecdoche

The white house announced that the treaty would be signed on 15th January.

What is Synecdoche

Synecdoche is a figure of speech where a word or phrase that refers to a part of something is used to represent the whole or vice versa. In other words, a whole is represented by a part of it or a part is represented by the whole. Let’s take the word wheels for an example. If someone says ‘nice wheels’, you automatically understand that he is referring to your car, not just the wheels. Some other examples of synecdoche include referring to cattle as heads and referring to helpers as hands.

Given below are some examples of synecdoche from literature.

“..I should have been a pair of ragged claws

scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” – “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, T.S. Elliot

 

“So the whole ear of Denmark

Is by a forgèd process of my death

Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth,

The serpent that did sting thy father’s life

Now wears his crown.” – “Hamlet”, William Shakespeare

 

“The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –

And Breaths were gathering firm

For that last Onset – when the King

Be witnessed – in the Room” – I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –”, EmilyDickinson

Difference Between Metonymy and Synecdoche

His land runs 1,000 head of cattle.

Difference Between Metonymy and Synecdoche

Definition

Metonymy is a figure of speech in which something is introduced by a new name that is related to the original thing or concept.

Synecdoche is a figure of speech where a word or phrase that refers to a part of something is used to represent the whole or vice versa.

New Term

Metonymy uses a related name or concept.

Synecdoche uses a part to represent the whole or vice versa.

Examples

Metonymy examples mostly include proper nouns.

Synecdoche examples often include common nouns, especially body parts.Difference Between Metonymy and Synecdoche - infographic

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