syn·​ec·​do·​che sə-ˈnek-də-(ˌ)kē How to pronounce synecdoche (audio)
: 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)
synecdochic adjective
synecdochical adjective
synecdochically adverb

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between synecdoche and metonymy?

Synecdoche refers to a literary device in which a part of something is substituted for the whole (as hired hand for "worker"), or less commonly, a whole represents a part (as when society denotes "high society"). In metonymy, a word that is associated with something is used to refer to it (as when crown is used to mean "king" or "queen"). For more information read the full article.

Is 'lend me your ears' an example of metonymy or synecdoche?

The Shakespearean phrase "lend me your ears," from Mark Antony's speech in Julius Caesar, is a call for the audience's attention made using metonymy, since ears are not part of attention but are associated with paying attention.

What are some examples of synecdoche?

Here are some examples of synecdoche: the word hand in "offer your hand in marriage"; mouths in "hungry mouths to feed"; and wheels referring to a car.

Examples of synecdoche in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web And similarly, the synecdoche is just a larger focus of a much bigger and more global issue. Hazlitt, 25 May 2023 The synecdoche and the implication were Glaser’s rhetoric. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 20 Mar. 2023 The images seen in many outlets, especially newspapers, still follow most of the rules of discretion and synecdoche that have become commonplace in war photography: Faces are often obscured or hidden, a hand or foot substitutes for the whole of the body. Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2022 Even if the flavors and textures of khoresht-e hulu are not all there is to Persian heritage, a traditional dish is a synecdoche for the culture. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 27 June 2022 As a synecdoche for the tragedy of our historical moment, consider a news item about the murder of nineteen schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas. Michael Robbins, Harper’s Magazine , 9 Nov. 2022 This freedom was evoked with the Abstract Expressionist brushstrokes of Pollock and Franz Kline, whose art became a synecdoche for unfettered personal expression and for individualism more broadly. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 1 Oct. 2021 The synecdoche soon wore down, however, and other words came into view. Ishion Hutchinson, The New York Review of Books, 19 Nov. 2020 What film choruses offer us is a perfect synecdoche for the collective, frenzied, and deeply mercenary magic that creates movies in the first place. Adrian Daub, Longreads, 3 Sep. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'synecdoche.' 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, 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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of synecdoche was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near synecdoche

Cite this Entry

“Synecdoche.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

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