A figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole (for example, ABCs for alphabet) or the whole for a part ("England won the World Cup in 1966"). Adjective: synecdochic or synecdochal.
Synecdoche is often treated as a type of metonymy. (See Examples and Observations, below.)
- AP English Language and Composition Exam: 101 Key Terms
- Figure of Thought
- Teaching the Figures of Speech in Movies
- Top 20 Figures of Speech
Etymology:From the Greek, "shared understanding"
Examples and Observations:
- "Ed's buddy was in the market for a new set of wheels and wanted Ed's opinion about a particular model of Lexus."
(Douglas T. Kenrick, Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life. Basic Books, 2011)
- "I left the toll road for our local highway and, turning into our dirt road, I was nearly rammed from behind by a pair of headlights that had been pushing, Pennsylvania style, six feet behind me."
(John Updike, "Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, a Dying Cat, a Traded Car." Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories. Alfred A. Knopf, 1962)
- "Land ho! All hands on deck!"
(Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island)
- "General Motors announced four major plant closings, triggering fears of growing unemployment."
(Adam Winkler, Gunfight. W.W. Norton, 2011)
- "Take thy face hence."
(William Shakespeare, Macbeth)
- "And let us mind, faint heart n'er wan
A lady fair."
(Robert Burns, "To Dr. Blalock")
- "Rationalizing guilt is a common trait of white-collar criminals."
(Larry J. Siegel, Criminology, 2012)
- "At midnight I went on deck, and to my mate's great surprise put the ship round on the other tack. His terrible whiskers flitted round me in silent criticism."
(Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer)
- "As a date, '9/11' is both singular and essentially repeatable. . . . Whenever the term '9/11' is used in this way a marker is put down referring us to this day, 9/11/2001, as if citation of this date (or its foreshortening as 9/11) is enough by the power of reference, and the power of its referent, to understand that day and to be affiliated with all that this day entails."
(Martin McQuillan, Deconstruction After 9/11. Routledge, 2009)
- "Synecdoches are ways in which we construct our understanding of the whole, although we only have access to the part. Synecdoches are part of our general cultural heritage and exist in literature as well as science. Archetypes, mythic characters, gods and goddesses have all been viewed as synecdochical, as have some literary characters, such as Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Desdemona, Romeo, Juliet, Jane Eyre, and Willy Loman.
"Within science writing, synecdoches are common as well. For example, DNA is a synecdoche for life, the test tube for experiment, the statistical test for proof, and Tally's corner for a kind of social organization."
(Laurel Richardson, Writing Strategies: Reaching Diverse Audiences. Sage, 1990)
- Metonymy and Synecdoche
"[I]t is often difficult to distinguish between metonymy and synecdoche. Plastic = credit card is a case of synecdoche because credit cards are made from plastic, but it is also metonymic because we use plastic to refer to the whole system of paying by means of a prearranged credit facility, not just the cards themselves. In fact, many scholars do not use synecdoche as a category or term at all."
(Murray Knowles and Rosamund Moon, Introducing Metaphor. Routledge, 2006)
"Cochin's Americanised hyper-hotel Le Meridien advertises its seafood restaurant with the slogan 'local catch, global taste.' The phrase is unoriginal: such formulae grace near-identical hotel malls around the globe. The translation from metonymy to synecdoche, though, is paradigmatic: in cooking, the 'catch' ceases to be merely adjacent, becomes an integral part of the whole cuisine.
"(Though the distinction is often collapsed, technically, metonymy substitutes something adjacent or adjunct for the object implied ['Oval Office' for President], whereas synecdoche substitutes an integral part for the whole thing ['The moving finger writes'].)"
(Stand Smith, Globalisation And Its Discontents. D.S. Brewer, 2006)
- Synecdoche in the News
"The daily press, the immediate media, is superb at synecdoche, at giving us a small thing that stands for a much larger thing. Reporters on the ground, embedded or otherwise, can tell us about or send us pictures of what happened in that place at that time among those people. The overarching theory rationalizing the great expense and effort that goes into those little stories is they somehow give us access to the big story, the big picture, what is really going on. . . .
"But synecdoche works only if the part really does stand for the whole. And that is something you often cannot know until long after the moment."
(Bruce Jackson, "Bringing It All Back Home." CounterPunch, Nov. 26, 2003)
- Synecdoche in Song Lyrics
"Some common forms of synecdoche are exemplified by these [song] titles: 'Take Back Your Mink' (raw material for finished product); 'Rum and Coca Cola' (trade name for generic product); 'Love Me, Love My Pekinese' (species for genus); 'Willie, Mickey, and the Duke' (nickname/first name/last name for person/thing); 'Woodstock' (place for event)."
(Sheila Davis, Successful Lyric Writing. Writer's Digest Books, 1988)
- Brand Loyalty
"It's true that there's something sad about the fact that David Leavitt's short stories' sole description of some characters is that their T-shirts have certain brand names on them. . . . In our post-1950s, inseparable-from-TV association pool, brand loyalty really is synecdochic of character."
(David Foster Wallace, "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction." The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 1993)
- "If we think less of what is left out [of a scene in a film] and more of what stays in, many ellipses are also synecdoches, where a part of something stands for the whole.
"Simon Rawley, a deserter, has leaped through a window to escape arrest. We see only his shins and feet. His toes point to us, to right, to left, and then to us again; they they turn and run away from us over the cobbles (Silent Dust, Lance Comfort).
"In showing a journey by night, Friedrich Ermler blacked out the sky, the trees, the road, and the carriage itself: all we see is a flickering white horse galloping larger toward us. Presumably a traveling light kept pace with the horse, and the flicker was caused by the trees in between (Peasants)."
(N. Roy Clifton, The Figure in Film. Associated University Presses, 1983)
- "In photographic and filmic media a close-up is a simple synecdoche--a part representing the whole. . . . Synecdoche invites or expects the viewer to 'fill in the gaps' and advertisements frequently employ this trope."
(Daniel Chandler, Semiotics: The Basics. Routledge, 2002)