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metonymy(mĭtŏn`əmē), figure of speech in which an attribute of a thing or something closely related to it is substituted for the thing itself. Thus, "sweat" can mean "hard labor," and "Capitol Hill" represents the U.S. Congress.
metonymythe substitution of a word referring to an attribute of a thing for the thing itself, e. the ‘crown’ to refer to the monarch. The role of metonymy in social life is a topic especially in SEMIOLOGY. See also METAPHOR, SYMBOL.
(1) A trope based on the principle of contiguity. Like metaphor, metonymy is possible because a word may have a double or multiple meaning. Thus, in the phrase “I ate three plates” (I. A. Krylov), the word “plate” simultaneously denotes two phenomena—the food and the dish. In metonymy, as in metaphor, the direct meaning of a word is superimposed on its referential meaning. However, in metonymy the two components are joined by relationships of contiguity rather than of similarity.
In metonymy the phenomena forming an “object pair” may be related to each other in a number of ways. For example, they may be whole and part (the synecdoche “Hey, you—beard! How do we get to Pliushkin’s from here?” N. V. Gogol), object and material (“He ate not on silver, but on gold,” A. S. Griboedov), or content and container (“The stoked stove crackles,” A. S. Pushkin). They may also be characteristic and characterized (“Boldness conquers cities”) or creation and creator (“The muzhik . . . will bring Belinskii and Gogol home from the market,” N. A. Nekrasov).
The artistic features of metonymy depend on the author, the culture, and the literary style. (Mythological metonymy is found in works by classical writers, who, for example, used the name of the god Mars to refer to war.)
(2) The term “metonymy” is also used to designate the use of a word in its secondary meaning, when it is related to the primary meaning by the principle of contiguity. For example, “crystal has gone on sale” and “crystal is glass containing lead oxide.” Because this phenonenon is characterized not by “renaming” but by simple naming (nomination), by a single level of meaning, and by the absence of imagistic effect, it is more correct to call it metonymization.
V. I. KOROL’KOV