Metonymy cropped up in the readings for my Semantics class this week, so I thought I’d write about it here to make sure I understand what it is.
The word metonymy come for the Greek μετωνυμία (metōnymia), which means “a change of name”. A metonym substitutes one word to stand for another that’s connected in some way.
Here are some examples which show some of the ways in which this figure of speech is used:
All hands on deck! – here hands stands for sailors (part for whole)
To fill up the car – the car stands for the petrol/gas tank (whole for part)
I’ll have a Heineken – Heineken stands for beer (producer for product)
No. 10 declined to comment – No. 10 Downing Street in London is the official residence of the British Prime Minister (place for institution)
Can I pay with plastic? – plastic stands for a credit/debit card
The first example is also known as a synecdoche.
These examples are based mainly on those found in An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics by Freidrich Ungerer and Hans-Jörg Schmid.