synecdoche

noun
syn·​ec·​do·​che | \sə-ˈnek-də-(ˌ)kē \

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)

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from synecdoche

synecdochic \ ˌsi-​ˌnek-​ˈdä-​kik \ adjective
synecdochical \ ˌsi-​ˌnek-​ˈdä-​ki-​kəl \ adjective
synecdochically \ ˌsi-​ˌnek-​ˈdä-​ki-​k(ə-​)lē \ 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

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 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 Often confused with a synecdoche, where a part of a whole represents the whole, a metonymy represents a thing by using another closely related thing. Leigh Cowart, The Cut, "How to Say ‘Orgasm’ in 27 Different Languages," 15 Dec. 2017 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 First, there are several instances of synecdoche and merismus. Sam Bray, Washington Post, "Translating Genesis: figures of speech," 23 July 2017 Unlike the Trump International Hotel—the upscale property that opened in September 2016 and has become something of a synecdoche for the president’s conflicts of interest—a new Scion hotel in D.C. would likely be a licensing deal. Jeremy Venook, The Atlantic, "Trump’s Interests vs. America’s, Emirati Businessman Edition," 19 May 2017 King’s shudders and vibratos, half-shouts and glottal stops have become a synecdoche for the ongoing struggle for American freedom. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, "The Case for Black English," 15 May 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about synecdoche

Share synecdoche

Listen to Our Podcast about synecdoche

Statistics for synecdoche

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for synecdoche

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

See more words from the same century

More from Merriam-Webster on synecdoche

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about synecdoche

Comments on synecdoche

What made you want to look up synecdoche? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to express warning or disapproval

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!