Synecdoche is a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole , the whole for a part , the species for the genus , the genus for the species , the name of the material for the thing made[1],or
the container is used to refer to its contents.


Latin, from Greek synekdochē, from syn- + ekdochē sense, interpretation, from ekdechesthai to receive, understand, from ex from + dechesthai to receive; akin to Greek dokeinto seem good.
First Known Use: 15th century [1]


The use of synecdoche is a common way to emphasize an important aspect of a fictional character; for example, a character might be consistently described by a single body part, such as the eyes, which come to represent the character. This is often used when the main character does not know or care about the names of the characters that he is referring to.[2]
Also, sonnets and other forms of love poetry frequently use synecdoches to characterize the beloved in terms of individual body parts rather than a whole, coherent self. This practice is especially common in the Petrarchan sonnet, where the idealised beloved is often described part by part, from head to toe.[2]
Famous poets use this figure of speech to convey and emphasize unusual and vivid images. The use of strong word association changes the mode of thought and adds variation, embellishment and adornment to literary works. [3]
In Figurative Language we use words in such a way that they differ somewhat from ordinary every-day speech and convey meanings in a more vivid and impressive manner. Figures, like Synecdoche make speech more effective, they beautify and emphasize it in Rhetoric which is the art of speaking and writing effectively. Figures of speech such as Synecdoche use word association to convey emotion and mood often in a non-literal sense.[3]
Figures of speech such as Synecdoche adds adornment, beautifies, colors, elegant variation, embellishment, embroidery, emphasis, exaggeration, exclamation, flourish, floweriness, irony, lushness and luxuriance to the English language. This page providing facts and info about Figures of Speech will help with the understanding of this subject.[3]

Examples Based on Definition

· a part for the whole: fifty sail for fifty ships
· the whole for a part: society for high society
· the species for the genus: cutthroat for assassin
· the genus for the species: a creature for a man
· the name of the material for the thing made: boards for stage
[Cited from]

More Examples:

· The rustler bragged he'd absconded with five hundred head of longhorns.
(Both "head" and "longhorns" are parts of cattle that represent them as wholes)

· Listen, you've got to come take a look at my new set of wheels.
(One refers to a vehicle in terms of some of its parts, "wheels")

· "He shall think differently," the musketeer threatened, "when he feels the point of my steel."
(A sword, the species, is represented by referring to its genus, "steel")[4]

Synecdoche Applied in Literature Works

Examples of Synecdoche can be found in many examples of the poems, essays and other literature works.
Examples of Synecdoche can be found in many examples of the poem, poems or poetry.
· "Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend me your ears"
—— Julius Caesar, Act III, sc. i by William Shakespeare
(probably the most famous example of synecdoche)

· "Prepar'd to scrub the entry and the stairs.

The youth with broomy stumps began to trace"
—— A Description of the Morning by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

(the stump of the broom's straw stands in for the whole of the broom)

· Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost where the journey through woods and forests in the poem represent life's journey.

· Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them.
—— Ozymandias by Shelley

· Give us this day our daily bread.
—— Matthew 6 : 11, 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

[Cited from]

· His eye met hers as she sat there paler and whiter than anyone in the vast ocean of anxious faces about her.
—— The Lady, or the Tiger? by Frank R. Stockton
(The "face" is to represent the whole person, as is part of something used to refer to the whole.)



Synecdoche is often treated as a type of metonymy.[5] While,metonomy is the more general or inclusive term. [6] Here is the comparison.
· Similarity/Relation
Both are figures of speech used in rhetoric. They’re not the same thing, though metonymy is often interpreted so widely that synecdoche can be regarded as a special case of it.
· Difference
· the former one is a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole, the whole for a part, the specific for the general, the general for the specific, or the material for the thing from which it is made.
· the latter one is a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated, as in the use of “ Washington” for “the United States government” or of “the sword” for “military power”.[7]

As for Synecdoche, You use this when you speak of a part of something but mean the whole thing. When Patrick O’Brian has Captain Jack Aubrey tell his first lieutenant to “let the hands go to dinner” he’s employing synecdoche, because he’s using a part (the hand) for the whole man. You can also reverse the whole and the part, so using a word for something when you only mean part of it. This often comes up in sport: a commentator might say that “The West Indies has lost to England” when he means that the West Indian team has lost to the English one. America is often used as synecdoche in this second sense, as the word refers to the whole continent but is frequently applied to a part of it, the USA.

Metonymy is similar, but uses something more generally or loosely associated with a concept to stand in for it. When Americans speak of the Oval Office, for example, they are really referring to the activity within it, the position or function of the President. It’s a linked term, and so a metonym. British writers refer similarly to the Crown, when they’re really discussing the powers, authority and responsibilities of the monarchy, which is symbolized by the crown. The difference between synecdoche and metonymy is that in metonymy the word you employ is linked to the concept you are really talking about, but isn’t actually a part of it. Another example is the turf for horse racing. But the distinction isn’t always obvious and often can’t be rigorously applied, and many people use metonymy to mean both. [8]

Academic Sources

Lakoff, G. and Johnson 1980 36
Mish 1991 1197
Neufeldt 1991 1358

More about Synecdoche

There is an American film called Synecdoche, New York written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was Kaufman's directorial debut.
In this film, this rhetorical device is adapted into the real city of New York. Theatre director Caden Cotard, the character in the film, unexpectedly receives a MacArthur Fellowship, giving him the financial means to pursue his artistic interests.He is determined to use it to create an artistic piece of brutal realism and honesty, something into which he can pour his whole self. He gathered an ensemble cast into an enormous warehouse in Manhattan's theater district and he directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives. [9]

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