Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A figure of speech in which the name of a part is used to stand for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer), the specific for the general (as cutthroat for assassin), the general for the specific (as thief for pickpocket), or the material for the thing made from it (as steel for sword).

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In rhetoric, a figure or trope by which the whole of a thing is put for a part, or a part for the whole, as the genus for the species, or the species for the genus, etc.: as, for example, a fleet of ten sail (for ships); a master employing new hands (for workmen). Compare metonymy.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Rhet.) A figure or trope by which a part of a thing is put for the whole (as, fifty sail for fifty ships), or the whole for a part (as, the smiling year for spring), the species for the genus (as, cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (as, a creature for a man), the name of the material for the thing made, etc.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun rhetoric A figure or trope by which a part of a thing is put for the whole, the whole for a part, the species for the genus, the genus for the species, or the name of the material for the thing made, and similar.
  • noun rhetoric The use of synecdoche; synecdochy.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun substituting a more inclusive term for a less inclusive one or vice versa

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English synodoches, from Medieval Latin synodoche, alteration of Latin synecdochē, from Greek sunekdokhē, from sunekdekhesthai, to take on a share of : sun-, syn- + ekdekhesthai, to understand (ek-, out of; see eghs in Indo-European roots + dekhesthai, to take; see dek- in Indo-European roots).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin synecdoche, from Ancient Greek συνεκδοχή (sunekdokhe, "receiving together").

Examples

  • Bill would have found a way to include the word "synecdoche" somewhere in that last sentence.

    Buckley, If Not God, Returns to Yale

  • The literary term synecdoche -- confusing a part for a whole -- is helpful in understanding how late twentieth-century Americans constructed an image of youth in crisis, as shocking episodes reinforced an impression that childhood was disintegrating.

    Archive 2005-03-01

  • In the informative spirit of today's Chat Update, I should point out that genericide is a form of the twinned literary term "synecdoche" and "metonymy,"

    The Washington Post: National, World & D.C. Area News and Headlines - The Washington Post

  • Should I be ashamed to admit that I have found recourse to the word synecdoche in many conversations, several of them about the film itself?

    Bright Lights After Dark

  • In the figure we call synecdoche, a part of the whole becomes a name for the whole, or vice versa as in "sixty head of cattle" or "fifty sails."

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol IX No 3

  • Why, regardless of place and culture, do people insist upon this bizarre synecdoche, which is even permitted to become almost literal in the case of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il and his god-like father -- all other North Koreans being, in effect, little more than their bodily extensions?

    Archive 2009-05-01

  • The literary term synecdoche -- confusing a part for a whole -- is helpful in understanding how late twentieth-century Americans constructed an image of youth in crisis, as shocking episodes reinforced an impression that childhood was disintegrating.

    On the nightstand (under the pillow, in the knapsack, etc.)

  • And he says that this rule applies in two ways: either to the figure of speech called synecdoche, or to legitimate numbers.

    On Christian Doctrine, in Four Books

  • One step farther, and Theobald would have discovered the true solution: he only required to know that _the shoes_, by a figure of rhetoric called synecdoche, may stand for the whole character and attributes of Hercules, to have saved himself the trouble of conjecturing an ingenious, though infinitely worse word, as a substitute.

    Notes and Queries, Number 193, July 9, 1853 A Medium of Inter-communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Genealogists, etc

  • You can look it up: A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole

    undefined

Comments

New comments are temporarily disabled while we update our database.

  • See Erin McKean, lexicographer to the stars, using "synecdochial" here.

    September 28, 2007

  • See also metonymy.

    October 12, 2007

  • After learning about synecdoche in a literature class, I was so proud of my elitism in understanding it. Now, Kaufman's ruined everything.

    October 29, 2008

  • Ack, will I always have to keep learning? Won't I ever experience a sense of lasting satisfaction? Ok, just kidding, I guess. Kaufman was interviewed on The Colbert Report, only it seems the full episode has become rather unavailable at my destination for Colbert Nation procrastination...

    December 27, 2008

  • I joked last week about wanting to see the new movie "Metonymy New York", but none of my friends got it.

    January 2, 2009

  • I love the old Judy Garland flick, Metonymy St. Louis!

    January 2, 2009

  • Nevertheless, historical priority does not seem to me a sufficient reason to explain why the word fascism became a synecdoche, that is, a word that could be used for different totalitarian movements.

    -Umberto Eco

    September 21, 2018