Meaning of metonym in English:


Pronunciation /ˈmɛtənɪm/


  • A word, name, or expression used as a substitute for something else with which it is closely associated. For example, Washington is a metonym for the US government.

    ‘In such cases, verisimilitude takes over motivation, because each word of that story will expatiate on or repeat the nuclear word that begets it, for each such word is also a metonym of that nucleus.’
    • ‘I would like to offer a variant definition and suggest that metonyms, like commuters, do not always make their connections.’
    • ‘The metonym I am describing is more than a ‘reality effect’ but less than a link in a dangerously mobile semiotic chain; no frightening or anxiety-provoking associations need be made to it.’
    • ‘Even if skin color were taken as a signifier for race, a metonym for some racial homunculus, all it would prove is a trope, not an index.’
    • ‘The I of her narrative is a masquerade, and her identity is never more than a metonym for an endless chain of signifiers.’
    • ‘They have become important unifying symbols in Western green politics, representing environmental health and social vitality, as metaphors and metonyms for the whole of ‘nature’.’
    • ‘The Lacanian opus is built upon the power of the signifier, the capacity of the noun, not just to represent, but also to signify various representations that can be in relation with one another, e.g. through metaphors and metonyms.’
    • ‘As such, these elements function as metonyms for the entire language, and their frequent repetition constitutes a convincing representation of English.’
    • ‘A hyperlink is both a metaphor and a metonym; in the online world, it not only represents the link between people - it is the link between people.’
    • ‘I think the word the author was searching for is metonym - a word or phrase which is substituted for another with which it is closely associated, as in the use of ‘the sword’ for ‘military power’.’
    • ‘Actual monuments or public architecture imbued with monumental significance function as metonyms of civic pride and power, as well as tacitly understood repositories of the nation's ‘sacred’ memories.’
    • ‘The Panama hat came to signify secular Turkish citizenship and functions as a metonym for the transformation of the Oriental Ottoman to the Western Turk.’
    • ‘Time flows, as people have said for centuries: originally this was not a metaphor for abstract time, but a metonym.’
    • ‘It traces the process by which the self and its metonyms (here imagination and ideas) manifest themselves in and connect with the exterior - and this is primarily, indeed unavoidably, through language.’
    • ‘At the same time ‘codes’ of ethnic, social and racial self-recognition along with historical traces and cultural metonyms are emphasised.’
    • ‘The nominees are metonyms for the skewed reality that is America - the population vote for an individual.’
    • ‘These symbols are the visual metonyms of Asian essentialism that have stagnated Asian Canadian discourse for some time.’
    • ‘By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the representational practices that sought to establish the naturalness of the body as a metonym for the naturalness of the unified subject were becoming increasingly problematic.’
    • ‘Frequently Shakespeare serves as a metonym for ideologically charged concepts - literature, classical theatre, highbrow culture, intellectualism - against which popular culture defines itself.’
    • ‘And of course there's the flow of milk and honey: sticky secretions that hold memories and traces of old desires and sensations (as well as being a metonym for New Zealand itself, land of milk and honey).’


Early 17th century (in the sense ‘metonymy’): apparently shortened from metonymy; the sense ‘word used as a substitute for something else’ dates from the mid 19th century and is probably from meta- + -onym.