me·​ton·​y·​my | \ mə-ˈtä-nə-mē How to pronounce metonymy (audio) \
plural metonymies

Definition of metonymy

: a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated (such as "crown" in "lands belonging to the crown")

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Other Words from metonymy

metonymic \ ˌme-​tə-​ˈni-​mik How to pronounce metonymy (audio) \ or metonymical \ ˌme-​tə-​ˈni-​mi-​kəl How to pronounce metonymy (audio) \ adjective

What is the difference between metonymy and synecdoche?

When Mark Antony asks the people of Rome to lend him their ears in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, he is employing the rhetorical device known as metonymy. Derived via Latin from Greek metonymia (from meta-, meaning "change, transformation," and onyma, meaning "name"), metonymy is often employed in news articles and headlines, as when journalists use the term crown to refer to a king or queen. Another common example is the use of an author's name to refer to works written by that person, as in "We are studying Hemingway." Metonymy is closely related to synecdoche, which refers to the naming of a part of something to refer to the whole thing (or vice versa), as in "We hired extra hands to help us."

Examples of metonymy in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But rather than presenting their fate as an ending, Simpson goes beyond rhetorical strategies of synecdoche and metonymy to represent the whole encased in ice. Star Tribune, "Review: 'Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies,' by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson," 12 Feb. 2021 Though Vietnam would be Simulmatics’ most profitable venture, its work there produced virtually nothing—a metonymy, perhaps, for the entirety of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. J.c. Pan, The New Republic, "The Anti-Democratic Origins of Voter Prediction," 8 Sep. 2020 Another is described only as bucktoothed, a flat, one-dimensional metonymy. Yvette Benavides,, "Review: Rediscovered novel ‘The Duchess of Angus’ a snapshot of World War II-era San Antonio," 4 June 2020 The human is reduced to a price or, in the environmental metonymy, a footprint. Aaron Timms, The New Republic, "Making Life Cheap," 18 May 2020 The general connection, then, is that in both watchmaking and gunmaking the term has a history of being used to denote diameter and in both cases, to some extent, has come to refer to a thing whose diameter was specified (maybe by metonymy). Jack Forster,, "Why a Watch Mechanism Is Called a Caliber," 8 May 2017 Beyond the day’s stories, however, artists have often used (print) newspapers as metonymies for the flow and acceleration of information. Jason Farago, New York Times, "Wade Guyton Packs Information in ‘The New York Times Paintings’," 5 Jan. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'metonymy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of metonymy

1573, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for metonymy

Latin metonymia, from Greek metōnymia, from meta- + -ōnymon -onym

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The first known use of metonymy was in 1573

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Cite this Entry

“Metonymy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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