Difference Between Metonymy and Synecdoche
Metonymy and synecdoche often get confused with one another, and though the differences are perhaps subtle, there are still differences that need to be recognized.
Let’s start with metonymy. A metonymy is when someone says something, but what they are really referring to is a concept about that thing.
When people use the word “crown” to refer to the duty, power, or rule of a monarchy. They aren’t actually talking about the object on their head, they are referring to what the object symbolizes.
An example of this in a sentence might be:
“It is the duty of the crown to foster unity within the community.”
You can see, in this example, that “crown” is referring to the duty, influence, or power of the monarch and not the actual object.
Now, a synecdoche, on the other hand, is when someone references a component or part of something when they really intend the whole thing, or when they reference a whole of something but really just mean a part of it.
Here are some examples of synecdoche:
When someone is referring to their new car they may say, “Check out my new wheels!” In this context they are not saying, “Hey look at the new wheels that I got on my car,” they are saying “Hey look at my new car!”
Or, when someone is referring to putting food on the table they may say, “He worked hard to put bread on the table for his family.” This statement does not mean that he worked hard to specifically put only bread on the table, but food in general.
Here are some examples of synecdoche when someone reference a whole, but means a part:
During the Olympics they announce that the United States won a gold medal, but what is really meant is that a specific U.S. team won a gold medal.
The word “Pentagon” is a synecdoche when it refers to a few people within the Pentagon.
It can be really easy to confuse these two terms, so look to see what the word is being used to reference. If the word being used is referencing a concept, then it’s metonymy, if the word is a part of the whole that is being referenced then it’s a synecdoche. Or, the other way around, if a word is referencing a whole, but is meant to reference a part then it is a synecdoche as well.
I hope that this video over metonymy and synecdoche was helpful.
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