What is metonymy?
Metonymy is a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated.
So we have structure of metonymy A/B instead of AB.
We use metonymy frequently in our everyday life. For a better understanding, let us observe a few metonymy examples:
- England decides to keep check on immigration. (England refers to the government.)
- The suits were at meeting. (The suits stand for business people.)
- The pen is mightier than the sword. (Pen refers to written words and sword to military force.)
- The Oval Office was busy in work. (“The Oval Office” is a metonymy as it stands for people at work in the office.)
- Let me give you a hand. (Hand means help.)
A variant of metonymy is synecdoche.
Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole or the whole for a part.
Semantically it can be original or trite.
Examples of Synecdoche:
Part of something used to represent the whole sentence:
- The ship was lost with all hands. (sailors)
- His parents bought him a new set of wheels. (new car)
- He has many mouths to feed. (to look after many)
- White hair. (elderly people)
Whole sentence used to deliver a part of something:
- "Give us this day our daily bread." (Matthew, 'The New Testament')
- "I should have been a pair of ragged claws. Scuttling across the floors of silent seas."
(The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot)
- "His eye met hers as she sat there paler and whiter than anyone in the vast ocean of anxious faces about her." (Face represents the whole person; a part used to refer to the whole).
Antonomasia is a rhetorical term for the substitution of a title, epithet, or descriptive phrase for a proper name (or of a personal name for a common name) to designate a member of a group or class.
Semantically antonomasia can be original or trite.
Examples of antonomasia:
- "The fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the world and was content to lose it." - by William Shakespeare.
- Harry is the Casanova of my life.
- There is much of Cicero in this letter.
- Tarzan – wild
- Solomon - a wise man
- Casanova - a philanderer
- The Bard of Avon - William Shakespeare
- The Iron Lady - Margaret Thatcher
Metonymy, like other literary devices, is employed to add a poetic color to words to make them come to life. The simple ordinary things are described in a creative way to insert this “life” factor to the literary works.