syn·​ec·​do·​che | \ sə-ˈnek-də-(ˌ)kē How to pronounce synecdoche (audio) \

Definition of synecdoche

: a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (such as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (such as society for high society), the species for the genus (such as cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (such as a creature for a man), or the name of the material for the thing made (such as boards for stage)

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Other Words from synecdoche

synecdochic \ ˌsi-​ˌnek-​ˈdä-​kik How to pronounce synecdochic (audio) \ adjective
synecdochical \ ˌsi-​ˌnek-​ˈdä-​ki-​kəl How to pronounce synecdochical (audio) \ adjective
synecdochically \ ˌsi-​ˌnek-​ˈdä-​ki-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce synecdochically (audio) \ adverb

Use Synecdoche as a Literary Device

Synecdoche, from Greek syn- ("together") and "ekdochē" ("interpretation"), is a good word to know if you are a budding author. Writers, and especially poets, use synecdoche in several different ways to create vivid imagery. Most frequently, synecdoche involves substituting a part for the whole ("fifty sail" for "fifty ships"). Less commonly, it involves putting the whole for the part ("society" for "high society"), the species for the genus ("cutthroat" for "assassin"), the genus for the species ("a creature" for "a man"), or the material for the thing made ("boards" for "stage"). Synecdoche is similar to metonymy, the use of the name of one thing in place of something associated with it (such as "Shakespeare" for "the works of Shakespeare").

Examples of synecdoche in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The figure of Cormery’s domineering grandmother, taking a rawhide switch to the troublemaking boy or up to her elbow in a toilet recovering a two-franc piece, is a synecdoche for the country’s intransigence and desperation. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Book Review: Classics Illustrated," 16 Nov. 2018 Brokaw becomes, in his defense, a synecdoche for the proper success story, the ideal American man, the country itself and what is most precious in it. Eve Fairbanks, The New Republic, "The Hollow Rage of Tom Brokaw," 3 May 2018 But that person was, without exception, typified as a white working man of rural origins, which became the synecdoche for Americanness itself, a reductive oxymoron of universality. Sarah Churchwell, The New York Review of Books, "America’s Original Identity Politics," 7 Feb. 2019 Kossola survives Middle Passage, slavery, and the Jim Crow south, so his story serves as a kind of synecdoche of the trauma of race in America. Constance Grady, Vox, "The 16 best books I read in 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 Season one started out aesthetically telling a story about one woman’s suffering that was meant as a kind of synecdoche of all women’s suffering. Caroline Framke, Vox, "The Handmaid’s Tale is as horrific as it’s ever been in “Other Women”," 9 May 2018 The right sequence has been used as a synecdoche, indicating the presence of a particular species in a sample. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, "Trade you a Lactobacillus from my gut for a Streptomyces from your yard," 3 Nov. 2017 Like Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức’s self-immolation in 1963 or the lone man facing down a column of tanks at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the photograph quickly became a visual synecdoche for the horrors of the global migrant crisis. Rahel Aima, New Republic, "Ai WeiWei Takes on the Migrant Crisis," 23 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'synecdoche.' 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 synecdoche

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for synecdoche

Latin, from Greek synekdochē, from syn- + ekdochē sense, interpretation, from ekdechesthai to receive, understand, from ex from + dechesthai to receive; akin to Greek dokein to seem good — more at ex-, decent

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Cite this Entry

“Synecdoche.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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