me·​ton·​y·​my mə-ˈtä-nə-mē How to pronounce metonymy (audio)
plural metonymies
: 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")
metonymic adjective
or metonymical

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What is the difference between metonymy and synecdoche?

In metonymy, a word that is associated with something is used to refer to that thing, as when crown is used to mean "king" or "queen," or when Mark Antony asks the people of Rome to lend him their ears in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar. It's also metonymy when an author's name is used to refer to works written by that person, as in "We are studying Jane Austen." Synecdoche is when the word for a part of something is substituted for the whole thing (such as hired hand for "worker"), or less commonly, when the whole is used to represent a part (as when society denotes "high society"). For more on this pair read the full article.

Examples of metonymy in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Or one that lets the signs of starvation, in Auschwitz or Utah, stand in for one another, like a metonymy. Anna Shechtman, The New Yorker, 20 Dec. 2021 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, 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, 8 Sep. 2020 Another is described only as bucktoothed, a flat, one-dimensional metonymy. Yvette Benavides,, 4 June 2020 The human is reduced to a price or, in the environmental metonymy, a footprint. Aaron Timms, The New Republic, 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,, 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, 5 Jan. 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'metonymy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1573, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of metonymy was in 1573


Dictionary Entries Near metonymy

Cite this Entry

“Metonymy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

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