Metonymy is a rhetorical form referring to a figure of speech in which something is referred to by something closely related to it. It is closely akin to a simile or metaphor, but it not quite the same.

Examples of metonymy include referring to 'the president' as 'the White House' or 'oval office', or 'the Russian government' as 'the Kremlin'. Sometimes sayings such as "they counted heads" are considered metonymy, although using a part to represent the whole is more properly classified as synecdoche.

Metonymy comes from the Greek metonymia, meaning 'a change of name', constructed from the words meta-, meaning 'change', and onyma (from onoma) meaning 'name'.

Metonymy is pronounced meh-ton-uh-mee or mih-ton-uh-mee.

In metonymy the mind compares two experienced subjects which can be substituted for one another in myriad ways; it sees similarities in differences, substituting a word for a word, a name for a name. The metaphorical meaning is carried by a word. It carries "similes, verbal images, verbal icons, parables and myths" (Edie, 190). Wheelwright's definition of epiphor, is "the outreach and extension of meaning through comparison". This type of metaphor depends on juxtaposing experiences to reveal something unexpected yet recognized at once.

Me*ton"y*my [L. metonymia, Gr. ; , indicating change + , for a name: cf. F. m'etonymie. See Name.] Rhet.

A trope in which one word is put for another that suggests it; as, we say, a man keeps a good table instead of good provisions; we read Virgil, that is, his poems; a man has a warm heart, that is, warm affections.


© Webster 1913.

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