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

Frequently Asked Questions About synecdoche

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 How four generations of one American family are a synecdoche of the decline of the conservative movement. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, "The Rise and Fall of the L. Brent Bozells," 19 Feb. 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, "Review: 'Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies,' by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson," 12 Feb. 2021 Once these drugs became a synecdoche for the hippie counterculture, and some researchers (including ones at the CIA) did less-than-ethical work, the stigma stuck. Sarah Scoles, Popular Science, "What happens when psychedelics make you see God," 9 Nov. 2020 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

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

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Cite this Entry

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

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