What is Metonymy and Examples

Metonymy is a literary figure, or rhetoric, in which one thing is designated by the name of another, with which it bears some relation.

Generally, the relationship between both concepts is that they belong to the same semantic family.

Let’s see some examples of metonymy and the relationships that occur between its elements:

Example: The happiness home just came from school
Explanation: This is a cause-effect relationship to refer to the happiness produced by the presence of the child in the home.

Example: drink one Cup
Explanation: container-content relationship, since it refers to drinking the contents of the cup, not the container itself.

Example: They swore allegiance to the flag
Explanation: symbol-meaning relationship, because loyalty is sworn to the country that the flag represents.

Example: do you want to take a port?
place-product relationship, Port wine is named after the city where it is produced.

Example: you should read to Cervantes.
Explanation: author-work relationship to say read the works written by Cervantes.

Example: defend the net of your team.
Explanation: part-whole relationship, uses the word net to refer to the entire goal.

Example: polish the car
whole-part relationship to refer to the body and not the whole car.

Example: painted a canvas
matter-object relationship to designate by means of canvas any painting on canvas.

Example: Is the best Brush from Paris
Explanation: tool-artificer relationship, refers to the painter through the tool with which he works.

Types of metonymy (with examples)

Depending on the relationship between the elements, metonymy can be of different types.

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cause for effect

Metonymy that designates an element by the effect it produces. It is common to use this type of expression to refer to people or situations through the feeling they cause us.

Monday starts the peace (because of the sensation caused in the person by what is going to happen on Monday).

Continent by content

This type of metonymy designates the object to be consumed by means of the name of its container. It is a common practice when we talk about eating food or drinks.

I’ll drink a glass of water (although what is drunk is the liquid it contains).

Symbol for what is symbolized

In this kind of metonymy, the word that refers to the symbol is used to refer to what it symbolizes.

Defend your shield in every match (referring to the team you represent).

Place of production by product

This kind of metonymy calls the product by the name of the place where it is made, as is usually the case with wines, whose name derives from the place where it is produced.

I prefer the Rioja (wine from the region of La Rioja).

Author for the work

Sometimes we use the name of the author to refer to the works made by him, something that happens frequently in artistic disciplines such as literature, painting, design, etc.

Have a picasso in the classroom (a picture painted by the artist).

part for the whole

This category consists of designating an entire object with the name of one of its parts. We usually use this resource when we talk about sets of objects, animals or people.

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Three heads think more than two (refers to three people).

all for the part

In this case, one of its parts is called through the name of the complete object. Its use is recurrent when we refer to large objects.

I am going to clean it House (although the entire construction is not cleaned completely).

matter for the object

It means that an object is referred to through the name of the material with which it is made.

I bought some Cowboys (trousers made of a particular type of fabric).

utensil per artificer

This type of metonymy refers to the person through the tool he uses to carry out his work.

This has to be fixed by a good scalpel (refers to the surgeon who manipulates the utensil).

See also:

  • Literary figures.
  • Synecdoche.

Examples of metonymy in literature

In the Rhyme XXXVII, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer names the weapon with the metal from which it is made.

[…]the iron I carry with what you opened your hand
the wide deadly wound.

In Twenty love poems and a desperate songPablo Neruda refers to sunset as the west party.

I have seen from my window
the party of the west in the distant hills.

in his poem YardAntonio Machado calls wheat incense of gold.

Far from your garden burns the afternoon
gold incense in glittering flames,[…]

Ruben Dario in the fairy cup refers to the sun as the star.

The star
of the mist on the tulle,
bloomed in blue field […]

in the poem deadly man of Lope de Vega, birth and death are called entry and exit.

A beginning and an end has life,
because everyone is the same entry,
and according to the input exit.

In Five weeks in a balloon of Jules Verne, railroad tracks are referred to as iron ways.

“The errands are over!” said one.
“And steamships!” said the other.
-And the iron roads -Kennedy responded-, that they do not let see the countries that they allow to cross.

Eduardo Mendoza, in cat fight, refers to the Prado National Museum.

-A while ago, MeadowI have been watching you. He was far away, the light was dim and my eyes are not those of yesteryear, but even so, I am convinced of having seen him talk with Diego de Acedo and with Francisco Lezcano. […]

metonymy and metaphor

Metonymy and metaphor differ in the type of relationships established by their elements.

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The metonymy it implies objective relations between elements, of presence or contiguity. For examplePort wine is produced in the city of Porto, the part that we call the “collar” on a shirt, is called that because it is at the height of the neck, etc.

In the metaphor that presence is not objective, that closeness is not real, but rather is the product of a subjective, mental association. For examplein “her hair is gold”, the reference to gold is due to the golden color of the blonde hair, but there is no gold as such in the referred hair.

See also Metaphor.