Term of Art: Synecdoche

“Synecdoche: (Greek ‘taking up together’) A figure of speech in which the part stands for the whole, and thus something else is understood within the thing mentioned. For example: in “Give us this day our daily bread”, “bread” stands for the meals taken each day. In these lines from Thomas Campbell’s Ye Mariners of England, “oak” represents the warships as well as the material from which they are made:

‘With thunders from her native oak,

She quells the flood below.’

Synecdoche is common in everyday speech. In “Chelsea won the match”, Chelsea stands for the Chelsea football team. See also ANTONOMASIA; METALEPSIS; METONYMY.

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.

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