Matignon and other metonyms

Last night I discovered that the French equivalent of “Number 10”, which in the UK refers to the British Prime Minister, is Matignon or L’Hôtel de Matignon, the official residence of the French Prime Minister.

Number 10 is shorthand for Number 10 Downing Street, is the official residence and office of the British Prime Minister, and the headquarters of the executive branch of the British Government. The British Government is also referred to as “Westminster”, from the Palace of Westminster where the British Parliament meets.

The Scottish Parliament is informally referred as “Holyrood” – named after the area of Edinburgh where it meets, while in Northern Irish Assembly is referred as “Stormont”, after the Stormont Estate where the main government buildings are. Stormont comes from the Stoirmhonadh, (place for crossing the mountains) and is named after a district in Perthshire in Scotland. The National Assembly of Wales / Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru is referred to as the Assembly in English, and y Cynulliad or y Senedd (the Senate) in Welsh. I don’t know of any particular metonyms for it.

Using the name of a place or building to refer to an institution or other organisation is known as metonymy, from the Greek μετωνυμία (metōnymía) – a change of name. Other examples include using Hollywood to refer to the US film industry, and Silicon Valley to refer to the US high-tech sector.

Are metonyms used to refer to governments, prime ministers, or other government institutions in other countries?

9 thoughts on “Matignon and other metonyms

  1. The name of a country’s capital is almost universally used for its government. E.g., “Moscow refused to comply”

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