Metonymy (/mɛˈtɒnəmi/)[1] is a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is referred to by the name of something closely associated with that thing or concept.[2]

Kremlin birds eye view-1
The Kremlin, pictured, is a common metonymy used to refer to the Government of Russia.


The words metonymy and metonym come from the Greek μετωνυμία, metōnymía, "a change of name", from μετά, metá, "after, beyond", and -ωνυμία, -ōnymía, a suffix that names figures of speech, from ὄνυμα, ónyma or ὄνομα, ónoma, "name".[3]


Metonymy and related figures of speech are common in everyday speech 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.[4] 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.[5][6]

American literary theorist Kenneth Burke considers metonymy as one of four "master tropes": metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony. He discusses them in particular ways in his book A Grammar of Motives.[7]

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.

Meaning relationships

Synecdoche, in which a specific part of something is used to refer to the whole, is usually understood as a specific kind of metonymy. Sometimes an absolute distinction is made between a metonymy and a synecdoche, treating metonymy as different from, rather than inclusive of, synecdoche. There is a similar problem with the terms simile and metaphor.

When the distinction is made, it is the following: when "A" is used to refer to "B", it is a synecdoche if A is a component of B or if B is a component of A, and a metonym if A is commonly associated with B but not part of its whole or a whole of its part. Thus, "20,000 hungry mouths to feed" is a synecdoche because mouths (A) are a part of the people (B) referred to. "Australia votes" is also a synecdoche because Australia is a whole of which the people who voted are a part. On the other hand, "The White House said" is metonymy, but not synecdoche, for the president and his staff, because, although the White House is associated with the president and his staff, the building is not a part of the people.

Similarly, metalepsis is closely related to metonymy, and is sometimes understood as a specific kind of metonymy. Metalepsis is a figure of speech in which a word or a phrase from figurative speech is used in a new context. The new figure of speech refers to an existing one.[8] For example, in the idiom "lead foot", meaning someone who drives fast, lead is a heavy substance, and a heavy foot on the accelerator pedal would cause a vehicle to go quickly. The use of "lead foot" to describe a person follows the intermediate substitution of "lead" for "heavy".[9] The figure of speech is a "metonymy of a metonymy".[8]

The concept of metonymy also informs the nature of polysemy, i.e., how the same phonological form (word) has different semantic mappings (meanings). If the two meanings are unrelated, as in the word pen meaning both writing instrument and enclosure, they are considered homonyms. Within logical polysemies, a large class of mappings may be considered to be a case of metonymic transfer (e.g., "chicken" for the bird, as well as its meat; "crown" for the object, as well as the institution). Other cases where the meaning is polysemous, however, may turn out to be more metaphorical, e.g., "eye" as in the "eye of the needle".

Metaphor and metonymy

Metonymy works by the contiguity (association) between two concepts, whereas the term "metaphor" is based upon their analogous similarity. When people use metonymy, they do not typically wish to transfer qualities from one referent to another as they do with metaphor.[10] There is nothing press-like about reporters or crown-like about a monarch, but "the press" and "the crown" are both common metonyms. Some uses of figurative language may be understood as both metonymy and metaphor; for example, the relationship between "a crown" and a "king" could be interpreted metaphorically (i.e., the king, like his gold crown, could be seemingly stiff yet ultimately malleable, over-ornate, and consistently immobile).

Two examples using the term "fishing" help clarify the distinction.[11] The phrase "to fish pearls" uses metonymy, drawing from "fishing" the idea of taking things from the ocean. What is carried across from "fishing fish" to "fishing pearls" is the domain of metonymy. In contrast, the metaphorical phrase "fishing for information" transfers the concept of fishing into a new domain. If someone is "fishing" for information, we do not imagine that the person is anywhere near the ocean; rather, we transpose elements of the action of fishing (waiting, hoping to catch something that cannot be seen, probing) into a new domain (a conversation). Thus, metaphor works by presenting a target set of meanings and using them to suggest a similarity between items, actions, or events in two domains, whereas metonymy calls up or references a specific domain (here, removing items from the sea).

Sometimes, metaphor and metonymy may both be at work in the same figure of speech, or one could interpret a phrase metaphorically or metonymically. For example, the phrase "lend me your ear" could be analyzed in a number of ways. One could imagine the following interpretations:

  • Analyze "ear" metonymically first – "ear" means "attention" (because we use ears to pay attention to someone's speech). Now, when we hear the phrase "lending an ear (attention)", we stretch the base meaning of "lend" (to let someone borrow an object) to include the "lending" of non-material things (attention), but, beyond this slight extension of the verb, no metaphor is at work.
  • Imagine the whole phrase literally – imagine that the speaker literally borrows the listener's ear as a physical object (and the person's head with it). Then the speaker has temporary possession of the listener's ear, so the listener has granted the speaker temporary control over what the listener hears. We then interpret the phrase "lend me your ear" metaphorically to mean that the speaker wants the listener to grant the speaker temporary control over what the listener hears.
  • First, analyze the verb phrase "lend me your ear" metaphorically to mean "turn your ear in my direction," since we know that, literally, lending a body part is nonsensical. Then, analyze the motion of ears metonymically – we associate "turning ears" with "paying attention," which is what the speaker wants the listeners to do.

It is difficult to say which analysis above most closely represents the way a listener interprets the expression, and it is possible that different listeners analyse the phrase in different ways, or even in different ways at different times. Regardless, all three analyses yield the same interpretation. Thus, metaphor and metonymy, though different in their mechanism, work together seamlessly.[12]


Here are some broad kinds of relationships where metonymy is frequently used:

  • Containment: When one thing contains another, it can frequently be used metonymically, as when "dish" is used to refer not to a plate but to the food it contains, or as when the name of a building is used to refer to the entity it contains, as when "the White House" or "the Pentagon" are used to refer to the U.S. presidential staff or the military leadership, respectively.
  • A physical item, place, or body part used to refer to a related concept, such as "the bench" for the judicial profession, "stomach" or "belly" for "appetite" or hunger, "mouth" for speech, various terms for the genitalia for sexual desire or satisfaction of said desire, being "in diapers" for infancy, "palate" for taste, "the altar" or "the aisle" for marriage, "hand" for someone's responsibility for something ("he had a hand in it"), "head" or "brain" for mind or intelligence, or "nose" for concern about someone else's affairs, (as in "keep your nose out of my business"). A reference to Timbuktu, as in "from here to Timbuktu," usually means a place or idea is too far away or mysterious. Metonymy of objects or body parts for concepts is common in dreams.[13]
  • Tools/instruments: Often a tool is used to signify the job it does or the person who does the job, as in the phrase "the press" (referring to the printing press), or as in the proverb, "The pen is mightier than the sword."
  • Product for process: This is a type of metonymy where the product of the activity stands for the activity itself. For example, in "The book is moving right along," the book refers to the process of writing or publishing.[14]
  • Punctuation marks often stand metonymically for a meaning expressed by the punctuation mark. For example, "He's a big question mark to me" indicates that something is unknown.[15] Period.
  • Synecdoche: A part of something is often used for the whole, as when people refer to "head" of cattle or assistants are referred to as "hands." An example of this is the Canadian dollar, referred to as the loonie for the image of a bird on the one-dollar coin. United States one hundred-dollar bills are often referred to as "Bens", "Benjamins" or "Franklins" because they bear a portrait of Benjamin Franklin. Also, the whole of something is used for a part, as when people refer to a municipal employee as "the council" or police officers as "the law".
  • Toponyms: A country's capital city or some location within the city is frequently used as a metonym for the country's government, such as Washington, D.C., in the United States; Ottawa in Canada; Tokyo in Japan; New Delhi in India; Downing Street or Whitehall in the UK; and the Kremlin in Russia. Similarly, other important places, such as Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Vegas, and Detroit are commonly used to refer to the industries that are located there (finance, advertising, high technology, entertainment, gambling, and motor vehicles, respectively). Such usage may persist even when the industries in question have moved elsewhere, for example, Fleet Street continues to be used as a metonymy for the British national press, though it is no longer located in the physical street of that name.

Places and institutions

A place is often used as a metonym for a government or other official institutions, for example, Brussels for the institutions of the European Union, The Hague for the International Court of Justice or International Criminal Court, Nairobi for the government of Kenya, the White House and Capitol Hill for the executive and legislative branches, respectively, of the United States federal government, or Foggy Bottom for the US State Department. A place can represent an entire industry: for instance Wall Street is often used metonymically to describe the entire U.S. financial and corporate banking sector.[16] Common nouns and phrases can also be metonyms: red tape can stand for bureaucracy, whether or not that bureaucracy actually uses red tape to bind documents. In Commonwealth realms, The Crown is a metonym for the state in all its aspects.[17]

Rhetoric in ancient history

Western culture studied poetic language and deemed it to be rhetoric. A. Al-Sharafi supports this concept in his book Textual Metonymy, "Greek rhetorical scholarship at one time became entirely poetic scholarship."[18] Philosophers and rhetoricians thought that metaphors were the primary figurative language used in rhetoric. Metaphors served as a better means to attract the audience’s attention because the audience had to read between the lines in order to get an understanding of what the speaker was trying to say. Others did not think of metonymy as a good rhetorical method because metonymy did not involve symbolism. Al-Sharafi explains, "This is why they undermined practical and purely referential discourse because it was seen as banal and not containing anything new, strange or shocking."[18]

Greek scholars contributed to the definition of metonymy. For example, Isocrates worked to define the difference between poetic language and non-poetic language by saying that, "Prose writers are handicapped in this regard because their discourse has to conform to the forms and terms used by the citizens and to those arguments which are precise and relevant to the subject-matter." In other words, Isocrates proposes here that metaphor is a distinctive feature of poetic language because it conveys the experience of the world afresh and provides a kind of defamiliarisation in the way the citizens perceive the world.[18] Democritus described metonymy by saying, "Metonymy, that is the fact that words and meaning change."[18] Aristotle discussed different definitions of metaphor, regarding one type as what we know to be metonymy today.

Latin scholars also had an influence on metonymy. The treatise Rhetorica ad Herennium states metonymy as, "the figure which draws from an object closely akin or associated an expression suggesting the object meant, but not called by its own name."[18] The author describes the process of metonymy to us saying that we first figure out what a word means. We then figure out that word’s relationship with other words. We understand and then call the word by a name that it is associated with. "Perceived as such then metonymy will be a figure of speech in which there is a process of abstracting a relation of proximity between two words to the extent that one will be used in place of another."[18] Cicero viewed metonymy as more of a stylish rhetorical method and described it as being based on words, but motivated by style.

Jakobson, structuralism, and realism

Metonymy became important in French structuralism through the work of Roman Jakobson. In his 1956 essay "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles", Jakobson relates metonymy to the linguistic practice of [syntagmatic] combination and to the literary practice of realism. He explains:

The primacy of the metaphoric process in the literary schools of Romanticism and symbolism has been repeatedly acknowledged, but it is still insufficiently realized that it is the predominance of metonymy which underlies and actually predetermines the so-called 'realistic' trend, which belongs to an intermediary stage between the decline of Romanticism and the rise of symbolism and is opposed to both. Following the path of contiguous relationships, the realistic author metonymically digresses from the plot to the atmosphere and from the characters to the setting in space and time. He is fond of synecdochic details. In the scene of Anna Karenina's suicide Tolstoy's artistic attention is focused on the heroine's handbag; and in War and Peace the synecdoches "hair on the upper lip" or "bare shoulders" are used by the same writer to stand for the female characters to whom these features belong.[19]

Jakobson's theories were important for Claude Lévi-Strauss, Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, and others.[20]

Dreams can use metonyms.[21]

Metonyms and art

Metonyms can also be wordless. For example, Roman Jakobson[22] argued that cubist art relied heavily on nonlinguistic metonyms, while surrealist art relied more on metaphors.

Lakoff and Turner[23] argued that all words are metonyms: “Words stand for the concepts they express.” Some artists have used actual words as metonyms in their paintings. For example, Miró’s 1925 painting "Photo: This is the Color of My Dreams" has the word “photo” to represent the image of his dreams. This painting comes from a series of paintings called peintures-poésies (paintings-poems) which reflect Miró’s interest in dreams and the subconscious[24] and the relationship of words, images, and thoughts. Picasso, in his 1911 painting "Pipe Rack and Still Life on Table" inserts the word “Ocean” rather than painting an ocean: These paintings by Miró and Picasso are, in a sense, the reverse of a rebus: the word stands for the picture, instead of the picture standing for the word.

See also



  1. ^ "metonymy". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2017-06-17.
  2. ^ "Metonymy - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  3. ^ Welsh, Alfred Hux; James Mickleborough Greenwood (1893). Studies in English Grammar: A Comprehensive Course for Grammar Schools, High Schools, and Academies. New York City: Silver Burdett. p. 222.
  4. ^ Dirven, René; Pörings, Ralf (2002). Metaphor and Metonymy in Comparison and Contrast. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-017373-4.
  5. ^ Wilber, Ken (2000). Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. Shambhala Publications. ISBN 978-0-8348-2108-8.
  6. ^ Tompkins, Penny; James Lawley. "Metonymy and Part-Whole Relationships". Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  7. ^ Burke, Kenneth. (1945) A Grammar of Motives. New York: Prentice Hall Inc. pp. 503–09.
  8. ^ a b Bloom, Harold (2003). A Map of Misreading. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516221-9.
  9. ^ "metalepsis". Silva Rhetoricae. Archived from the original on 2013-08-16. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  10. ^ Chandler, Daniel. "Rhetorical Tropes". Semiotics for Beginners. Aberystwyth University. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  11. ^ Example drawn from Dirven, 1996
  12. ^ Geeraerts, Dirk (2002). "The interaction of metaphor and metonymy in composite expressions" (PDF). In R. Dirven and R. Pörings. Metaphor and Metonymy in Comparison and Contrast. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 435–465. ISBN 978-3-11-017373-4. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  13. ^ Blechner, M. J. (2018) The Mindbrain and Dreams. New York: Routledge.
  14. ^ Lakoff and Johnson 1999, p. 203
  15. ^ Lakoff and Johnson 1999, p. 245
  16. ^ Gibbs, Jr., Raymond W. (1999). "Speaking and Thinking with Metonymy", in Pattern and Process: A Whiteheadian Perspective on Linguistics, ed. Klaus-Uwe Panther and Günter Radden. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 61–76. ISBN 978-9027223562.
  17. ^ Jackson, Michael D (2013), The Crown and Canadian Federalism, Toronto: Dundurn Press, p. 20, ISBN 9781459709898
  18. ^ a b c d e f Al-Sharafi, Abdul Gabbar (2004). Textual Metonymy: A Semiotic Approach.
  19. ^ Jakobson, Roman (1956). "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles". In Dirven, René; Pörings, Ralf. Metaphor and Metonymy in Comparison and Contrast (revised ed.). de Gruyter. pp. 41–48. ISBN 9783110173741. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  20. ^ Dirven, René (2003). "Metonymy and Metaphor: Different Mental Strategies of Conceptualisation". In Dirven, René; Pörings, Ralf. Metaphor and Metonymy in Comparison and Contrast (revised ed.). de Gruyter. pp. 75–112. ISBN 9783110173741. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  21. ^ Blechner, M. J. (2018) The Mindbrain and Dreams: An Exploration of Thinking, Dreaming, and Artistic Creation. New York: Routledge.
  22. ^ Jakobson, R. (1971) Selected Writings: Word and Language, Vol 2. The Hague: Mouton.
  23. ^ Lakoff, G. and Turner, M. (1989) More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  24. ^ Rowell, M. (1976) Joan Miró: Peinture – Poésie. Paris: Éditions de la différence.


  • Blank, Andreas (1997). Prinzipien des lexikalischen Bedeutungswandels am Beispiel der romanischen Sprachen. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-093160-0.
  • Corbett, Edward P.J. (1998) [1971]. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511542-0.
  • Dirven, René (1999). "Conversion as a Conceptual Metonymy of Event Schemata". In K.U. Panther and G. Radden. Metonymy in Language and Thought. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 275–288. ISBN 978-90-272-2356-2.
  • Fass, Dan (1997). Processing Metonymy and Metaphor. Ablex. ISBN 978-1-56750-231-2.
  • Grzega, Joachim (2004). Bezeichnungswandel: Wie, Warum, Wozu? Ein Beitrag zur englischen und allgemeinen Onomasiologie. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter. ISBN 978-3-8253-5016-1.
  • Lakoff, George; Johnson, mark (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-05674-3.
  • Somov, Georgij Yu. (2009). "Metonymy and its manifestation in visual artworks: Case study of late paintings by Bruegel the Elder". Semiotica. 2009 (174): 309–66. doi:10.1515/semi.2009.037.
  • Smyth, Herbert Weir (1920). Greek Grammar. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. p. 680. ISBN 978-0-674-36250-5.
  • Warren, Beatrice (2006). Referential Metonymy. Publications of the Royal Society of Letters at Lund. Lund, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell International. ISBN 978-91-22-02148-3.

Further reading

  • Fass, Dan (1988). "Metonymy and metaphor: what's the difference?". Proceedings of the 12th conference on Computational linguistics. 1. pp. 177–81. doi:10.3115/991635.991671. ISBN 978-963-8431-56-1.
  • Gaines, Charles (2003). "Reconsidering Metaphor/Metonymy: Art and the Suppression of Thought" (64).
  • Jakobson, Roman (1995) [1956]. "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Disturbances". In Linda Waugh and Monique Monville-Burston. On Language. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-63536-4.
  • Lakoff, George (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-46801-3.
  • Low, Graham (1999-02-11). "An Essay Is a Person". In Cameron, Lynne; Low, Graham. Researching and Applying Metaphor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 221–48. ISBN 978-0-521-64964-3.
  • Pérez-Sobrino, Paula (2014). "Meaning construction in verbomusical environments: Conceptual disintegration and metonymy" (PDF). Journal of Pragmatics. 70: 130–151. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2014.06.008.
  • Peters, Wim (2003). "Metonymy as a cross-lingual phenomenon" (PDF). Proceedings of the ACL 2003 Workshop on Lexicon and Figurative Language. 14: 1–9. doi:10.3115/1118975.1118976. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2003-10-15.
Application software

Application software (app for short) is software designed to perform a group of coordinated functions, tasks, or activities for the benefit of the user. Examples of an application include a word processor, a spreadsheet, an accounting application, a web browser, an email client,a media player, a file viewer, an aeronautical flight simulator, a console game or a photo editor. The collective noun application software refers to all applications collectively. This contrasts with system software, which is mainly involved with running the computer.

Applications may be bundled with the computer and its system software or published separately, and may be coded as proprietary, open-source or university projects. Apps built for mobile platforms are called mobile apps.

Bay Street

Bay Street is a major thoroughfare in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is the centre of Toronto's Financial District and is often used by metonymy to refer to Canada's financial services industry since succeeding Montreal's St. James Street in that role in the 1970s.

Bay Street begins at Queens Quay (Toronto Harbour) in the south and ends at Davenport Road in the north. The original section of Bay Street ran only as far north as Queen Street West. Sections north of Queen Street were renamed Bay Street as several other streets were consolidated and several gaps filled in to create a new thoroughfare in the 1920s. The largest of these streets, Terauley Street, ran from Queen Street West to Grenville Street. At these two points, there is a curve in Bay Street.

"Bay Street" is frequently used as a metonym to refer to Toronto's Financial District and the Canadian financial sector as a whole, similar to Wall Street in the United States. "Bay Street banker", as in the phrase "cold as a Bay Street banker's heart", was a term of opprobrium especially among Prairie farmers who feared that Toronto-based financial interests were hurting them. Within the legal profession, the term Bay Street is also used colloquially to refer to the large, full-service business law firms of Toronto.


Caput, a Latin word meaning literally "head" and by metonymy "top", has been borrowed in a variety of English words, including capital, captain, and decapitate. The surname Caputo, common in the Campania region of Italy, comes from the appellation used by some Roman military generals. A variant form has surfaced more recently in the title Capo (or Caporegime), the head of La Cosa Nostra. The French language converted 'caput' into chief, chef, and chapitre, later borrowed in English as chapter.

The central settlement in an Anglo-Saxon multiple estate was called a caput, (short for caput baroniae, see below). The word is also used for the centre of administration of a hundred. It may also refer to a family seat.

Caput baroniae is the seat of an English feudal barony. Caput baronium is the seat of a barony in Scotland.Caput was also the name of the council or ruling body of the University of Cambridge prior to the constitution of 1856 and remains the presiding body of the Senate of the University of Dublin.

Caput is also used in medicine to describe any head like protuberance on an organ or structure, such as the caput humeri.

In music, caput may refer to the Missa Caput or the plainsong melisma on which it is based.

In arachnology, the caput or "head" is the cephalic part of a cephalothorax.

The German word kaputt ("destroyed"), from which derives the English colloquialism 'kaput' or 'caput' (meaning done, or finished) is not related to this word. The origin of the German word, and consequently the English words is borrowing from the French: être capot, lit. 'to be bonnet' or fig. 'to be defeated'.

Condensation (psychology)

In Freudian psychology, a condensation (German: Verdichtung) is when a single idea (an image, memory, or thought) or dream object stands for several associations and ideas.

Displacement (psychology)

In Freudian psychology, displacement (German: Verschiebung, "shift, move") is an unconscious defence mechanism whereby the mind substitutes either a new aim or a new object for goals felt in their original form to be dangerous or unacceptable.A term originating with Sigmund Freud, displacement operates in the mind unconsciously, its transference of emotions, ideas, or wishes being most often used to allay anxiety in the face of aggressive or sexual impulses.


Ferragosto is a public holiday celebrated on 15 August in Italy, Ticino, and San Marino. It coincides with the major Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary. By metonymy, it is also the summer vacation period around mid-August, which may be a long weekend (ponte di ferragosto) or most of August.


A foulard is a lightweight fabric, either twill or plain-woven, made of silk or a mix of silk and cotton. Foulards usually have a small printed design of various colors. Foulard can also refer by metonymy to articles of clothing, such as scarves and neckties, made from this fabric. In men's ties, foulard refers to the pattern rather than the material; it is a small-scale pattern with basic block repeat, also called a set pattern or a tailored pattern.

Foulard is believed to have originated in the Far East. The word comes from the French word foulard, with the same proper and metonymic meanings. In modern French, foulard is the usual word for a scarf or neckerchief.

Foulard fabric is also used in home décor wall coverings.


Used colloquially as a noun or adjective, "highbrow" is synonymous with intellectual; as an adjective, it also means elite, and generally carries a connotation of high culture. The word draws its metonymy from the pseudoscience of phrenology, and was originally simply a physical descriptor.


A husting originally referred to a native Germanic governing assembly, the thing. By metonymy, the term may now refer to any event, such as debates or speeches, during an election campaign where one or more of the representative candidates are present. The term is used synonymously with stump in the United States.

List of metonyms

The following is a list of common metonyms. A metonym is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept. For instance, "Westminster", a borough of London in the United Kingdom, could be used as a metonym for the country's government.


Meronymy (from Greek μέρος meros, "part" and ὄνομα onoma, "name") is a semantic relation specific to linguistics, distinct from the similar metonymy. A meronym denotes a constituent part of, or a member of something.

That is,

"X" is a meronym of "Y" if Xs are parts of Y(s), or

"X" is a meronym of "Y" if Xs are members of Y(s).For example, finger is a meronym of hand because a finger is part of a hand. Similarly, wheels is a meronym of automobile.

Meronymy is the opposite of holonymy. A closely related concept is that of mereology, which specifically deals with part-whole relations and is used in logic. It is formally expressed in terms of first-order logic. A meronymy can also be considered a partial order.

A meronym refers to a part of a whole. A word denoting a subset of what another word denotes is a hyponym. For example, a hyponym of tree is pine tree or oak tree ("a kind of tree"), but a meronym of tree is bark or leaf ("a part of a tree").

In knowledge representation languages, meronymy is often expressed as "part-of".


A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas. Antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile are all types of metaphor. One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature is the "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It:

This quotation expresses a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage. By asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the behavior of the people within it.

The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1937) by rhetorician I. A. Richards describes a metaphor as having two parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is the object whose attributes are borrowed. In the previous example, "the world" is compared to a stage, describing it with the attributes of "the stage"; "the world" is the tenor, and "a stage" is the vehicle; "men and women" is the secondary tenor, and "players" is the secondary vehicle.

Other writers employ the general terms ground and figure to denote the tenor and the vehicle. Cognitive linguistics uses the terms target and source, respectively. Psychologist Julian Jaynes contributed the terms metaphrand, metaphier, paraphrand, and paraphier to the understanding of how metaphors evoke meaning thereby adding two additional terms to the common set of two basic terms. Metaphrand is equivalent to metaphor theory terms tenor, target, and ground. Metaphier is equivalent to metaphor theory terms vehicle, figure, and source. Paraphier is any attribute, characteristics, or aspect of a metaphier, whereas any paraphrand is a selected paraphier which has conceptually become attached to a metaphrand through understanding or comprehending of a metaphor. For example, if a reader encounters this metaphor: "Pat is a tornado," the metaphrand is "Pat," the metaphier is "tornado." The paraphiers, or characteristics, of the metaphier "tornado" would include: storm, power, wind, counterclockwise, danger, threat, destruction, etc. However, the metaphoric use of those attributes or characteristics of a tornado is not typically one-for-one; if Pat is said to be a "tornado" the metaphoric meaning is likely to focus on the paraphrands of power or destruction rather than on, say, the paraphier of counterclockwise movement of wind.

Metaphor and metonymy

Metaphor (drawing a similarity between two things) and metonymy (drawing a contiguity between two things) are two fundamental opposite poles along which a discourse with human language is developed. It has been argued that the two poles of similarity and contiguity are fundamental ones along which the human brain is structured; in the study of human language the two poles have been called metaphor and metonymy, while in the study of the unconscious they have been called condensation and displacement. In linguistics, they are connected to the paradigmatic and syntagmatic poles.The couple metaphor-metonymy had a prominent role in the renewal of the field of rhetoric in the 1960s. In his 1956 essay, "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles", Roman Jakobson describes the couple as representing the possibilities of linguistic selection (metaphor) and combination (metonymy); Jakobson's work became important for such French structuralists as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roland Barthes. In his essay, Jakobson also argues that metaphor is the basis for poetry, especially as seen in literary Romanticism and Symbolism, whereas metonymy forms the basis for Realism in literature.

Quai d'Orsay

The Quai d’Orsay (French: [kɛ dɔʁsɛ]) is a quay in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, part of the left bank of the Seine, and the name of the street along it. The Quai becomes the Quai Anatole-France east of the Palais Bourbon, and the Quai Branly west of the Pont de l'Alma.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located on the Quai d'Orsay, and thus the ministry is often called the Quai d'Orsay by metonymy.

The Quai (rue du Bac) has historically played an important role in French art as a location to which many artists came to paint along the banks of the river Seine.

The building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was developed between 1844 and 1855 by Jacques Lacornée. The statues of the facade were created by the sculptor Henri de Triqueti (1870).

Semantic change

Semantic change (also semantic shift, semantic progression, semantic development, or semantic drift) is a form of language change regarding the evolution of word usage—usually to the point that the modern meaning is radically different from the original usage. In diachronic (or historical) linguistics, semantic change is a change in one of the meanings of a word. Every word has a variety of senses and connotations, which can be added, removed, or altered over time, often to the extent that cognates across space and time have very different meanings. The study of semantic change can be seen as part of etymology, onomasiology, semasiology, and semantics.

Stylistic device

In literature and writing, stylistic elements are the use of any of a variety of techniques to give an auxiliary meaning, idea, or feeling to the literal or written.


A synecdoche (, sih-NEK-də-kee; from Greek συνεκδοχή, synekdoche, lit. "simultaneous understanding") is a figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something or vice versa. A synecdoche is a class of metonymy, often by means of either mentioning a part for the whole or conversely the whole for one of its parts. Examples from common English expressions include "suits" (for "businessmen"), "boots" (for "soldiers") (pars pro toto), and "America" (for "the United States of America") (totum pro parte).The use of government buildings to refer to their occupant(s) is metonymy and sometimes also synecdoche. "The Pentagon" for the United States Department of Defense can be considered synecdoche, as the building can be considered part of the department. Likewise, using "Number 10" to mean "the Office of the Prime Minister" (of the United Kingdom) is a synecdoche.

Totum pro parte

Totum pro parte is Latin for "the whole for a part"; it refers to a kind of metonymy. The plural is tota pro partibus, "wholes for parts". When used in a context of language it means that something is named after something of which it is only a part (or only a limited characteristic, in itself not necessarily representative for the whole). A pars pro toto (in which a part is used to describe the whole) is the opposite of a totum pro parte.

Trope (literature)

A literary trope is the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.

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