A figure of speech in which the part is made to represent the whole, or vice-versa.
Synecdoche is a subclass of metonymy where a whole represents a part (“Edmonton” represents the Oilers hockey team), a part represents a whole (“wheels” represent a car), or the material used to make an object represents the whole object (“plastic” represents a credit card).
With metonymy, the part that is used to represent the whole is not part of the whole.
(Source: Journal #6 Topic: Metonymy vs. Synecdoche, TeacherWeb.com PDF)
The word synecdoche comes from Greek syn- (“together”) and ekdochē (“interpretation”). Read more on its use in poetry and Shakespeare here (Merriam-Webster), with some excellent examples here (SoftSchools).
Examples of synecdoche
- Edmonton won in overtime. (“Edmonton” represents Edmonton’s hockey team, the Oilers.)
- Like my new wheels? (“Wheels” are a part of a car used to represent the whole car.)
- Lend me a hand. (Means “Help me out,” where a hand is a part of the person.)
- She is the breadwinner. (Means main income earner, where “bread” represents food in general or money.)
- Teaching is my bread and butter.
- I paid with plastic. (Paid with a credit card, which is made of plastic.)
- Ten sail left yesterday. (Refers to ten ships. Sails are parts of the ships.)
- The farmer has 200 head. (“Head” represents the whole cattle.)
Examples of metonymy
One thing (an object or place) is used to represent a larger, more abstract concept.
- “Crown” is used to represent a king or queen. (A crown and a person are not parts of each other.)
- The “press” often refers to journalists (who used printing presses in the past), not the press (machine) itself.
(Sources: Glossary of Fiction Writing Terms, scribendi.com and Journal #6 Topic: Metonymy vs. Synecdoche, TeacherWeb.com PDF)
Other sources and references