Metonymy, synecdoche, antonomasia.

Businka_Z 2012 M03 18

Metonymy Metonymy - a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated (such as "crown" for "royalty"). Metonymy is also the rhetorical...


Metonymy - a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated (such as "crown" for "royalty").

Metonymy is also the rhetorical strategy of describing something indirectly by referring to things around it, such as describing someone's clothing to characterize the individual. Adjective: metonymic.

Examples and Observations:

  • "Many standard items of vocabulary are metonymic. A red-letter day is important, like the feast days marked in red on church calendars. . . . On the level of slang, a redneck is a stereotypical member of the white rural working class in the Southern U.S., originally a reference to necks sunburned from working in the fields."
    (Connie Eble, "Metonymy." The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992)
  • "Fear gives wings."
    (Romanian proverb)
  • "Detroit is still hard at work on an SUV that runs on rain forest trees and panda blood."
    (Conan O'Brien)


Synecdoche a figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole (for example, ABCs for alphabet) or the whole for a part ("Englandwon the World Cup in 1966").

Synecdoche is often treated as a type of metonymy. Adjective:synecdochic or synecdochal.

Examples and Observations:

  • "The sputtering economy could make the difference if you're trying to get a deal on a new set of wheels."
    (Al Vaughters,, Nov. 21, 2008)
  • All hands on deck.
  • General Motors announced cutbacks.
  • "Take thy face hence."
    (William Shakespeare, Macbeth)


Antonomasia - a rhetorical for the substitution of a title, epithet, or descriptive phrase for a proper name to designate a member of a group or class.

The windy city (Chicago)

Old Hickory (President Andrew Jackson)

The Boss (Bruce Springsteen)

Examples and Observations:

  • The character of James "Sawyer" Ford in the ABC television program Lost regularly used antonomasiato annoy his companions. His nicknames for Hurley included Lardo, Kong, Pork Pie, Stay Puft, Rerun, Barbar, Pillsbury, Muttonchops, Mongo, Jabba, Deep Dish, Hoss, Jethro, Jumbotron, and International House of Pancakes.
  • Calling a lover Casanova, an office worker Dilbert, Elvis Presley the King, Bill Clinton the Comeback Kid, or Horace Rumpole's wife She Who Must Be Obeyed
  • "When I eventually met Mr. Right I had no idea that his first name was Always."
    (Rita Rudner)

Antonomasia. This trope is of the same nature as metonymy, although it can not be said to exhibit the idea more vividly. It consists in putting in place of a proper name, another notion which may be either in apposition to it or predicated of it. Its principal use is to avoid the repetition of the same name, and the too frequent use of the pronoun. The most frequent forms of it are, naming a person from his parentage or country; as, Achilles is called Pelides; Napoleon Bonaparte, the Corsican: or naming him from some of his deeds; as, instead of Scipio, the destroyer of Carthage; instead of Wellington, the hero of Waterloo. In making use of this trope such designations should be selected as are well known, or can be easily understood from the connection, and free from ambiguity--that is, are not equally applicable to other well-known persons.


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