Figure Name synecdoche
Source Ad Herennium 4.33.44-45 ("intellectio"); Quintilian 8.6.19-22; Trebizond 61r ("intellectio"); Susenbrotus (1540) 7-8 ("synecdoche," "intellectio"; Sherry (1550) 42 ("synecdoche," "intellectio," "intelleccion"); Peacham (1577) C3r; Fraunce (1588) 1.8-11; Putt. (1589) 196, 205 ("synecdoche," "figure of quick conceite"); Day 1599 78; Hoskins 1599 11; Melanchthon (1531) b1r; Silva Rhetoricae (; Ad Herennium (341); Garrett Epp (1994) ("intellectio," "synecdoche"); JG Smith (1665) ("synecdoche"); Gibbons (1767) 71 ("synecdoche"); Vinsauf ([c. 1215]1967) ("synecdoche (intellectio)"); Macbeth (1876); Holmes (1806) ("synecdoche"); Hart (1874) 165; Bain (1867) 39 (`synecdoche"); De Mille (1882); Hill (1883); Waddy (1889); Du Marsais (1730); Blount (1653) 5; Raub (1888) 208; Blackwall (1718); Bullinger (1898) ("synecdoché; or, transfer"); Johnson (1903) ("synecdoche"); Norwood (1742) ("synecdoche"); Kellog (1880) ("synecdoche"); Vickers (1989) ("synecdoche")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms intellectio, subintellectio, pars pro toto, intelleccion, figure of quick conceite, comprehension synecdoché, transfer
Etymology Gk. "to take with something else" or Gr. from sun "together with" and "a receiving from"
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. A whole is represented by naming one of its parts (genus named for species), or vice versa (species named for genus). (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Synecdoche occurs when the whole is known from a small part or a part from the whole. (Ad Herennium)

3. Substitution of a part for the whole, or the whole for a part, of a thing. (Garrett Epp)

4. Comprehension: a trope where the more comprehensive words are put for the lesse comprehensive, and contrarily, &c.; Synecdoche, es, f. Comprehensio, Comprehen[...]on, derived from [synecdechoma*] Comprehendo, aut, una excipio, seu recipio, to comprehen, or take together. It is a Trope, or a form of speech, whereby the more comprehensive words are put for the lesse comprehensive; and contrarily: or when a part is understood by the whole, or the whole by a part, the general by the special, and contrarily: or, it is an exchange of the name of the part for the whole, or of the name of the whole for the part. This figurative Exornation gives a grace unto speech, which otherwise it would want, enforcing the understanding of the hearers to a deeper consideration of the sense and meaning: and is chiefly fourfold, viz.

(1) Synecdoche Speciei.
(2) Synecdoche Membri aut partis.
(3) Synecdoche Generis.
(4) Synecdoche Totius.
(JG Smith)

5. "...a Trope, which puts the name of the whole for a part [1], or the name of a part for the whole [2]; a general name for a particular under that general [3], or a particular for that general [4]." (Gibbons)

6. If you intend to say: I studied for three years, you may, with happier effect, adorn the statement. The wording above is inelegant and trite; you may refine the inelegant, your file may renew the trite in this way: The third summer came upon me in study; the third autumn found me engaged; the third winter embroiled me in cares; in study I passed through three spring times. I word the statement more skilfully when suppressing the whole, I imply that whole from the parts, in the way just exemplified. (Vinsauf)

7. Synecdoche next insists on receiving mention, because it is a thirty-third and double form of metonymy, so important as to have obtained a separate title - a part for the whole, or a whole for the part: as when Thomas Aird addresses his mother as "Thou sacred head" - an expression very familiar to the students of Homer; or as when you term your home "Thou beloved roof;" or as when a general is said to win a victory. (Macbeth)

8. Synecdoche the whole part doth take; Or, of a part for whole, exchange doth make. (Holmes)

9. Synechdoche is a figure somewhat akin to metonymy. In synechdoche we do not change a name from one object to another, but we give to an object a name which literally expresses something more or something less than we intend. (Hart)

10. "The term Synecdoche is applied to different kinds of Figures. The following forms of synecdoche are figures of similarity:--(1.) Putting the Species for the Genus….(2.) The Antonomasia puts an Individual for the Species….(3.) Putting the Genus for the Species….(4.) Putting the Concrete for the Abstract…." (Bain)

11. [Definition 2] "(1.) a thing named by some part that is peculiarly forcible or suggestive. (2.) The reverse operation of using the Whole for a Part is a species of Synecdoche. (3.) the name of the Material is given for the thing Made…. (4.) The name of a passion is sometimes given for the object that inspires it…." (Bain)

12. 128. SYNECDOCHE.
Synecdoche is a figure which consists in the substitution for one another of words which indicate the relations of principal and subordinate; as, when a part is put for the whole, or the whole for a part; species for genus, or genus for species, the concrete for the abstract, or the abstract for the concrete.
In this figure we may observe two general divisions; first, where the definite is used for the indefinite; and secondly, where the indefinite is used for the definite. (De Mille)

13. 1. Forms of Synecdoche.
This figure has three forms: (1) a part is put for the whole of an object; (2) the whole is put for a part; and (3) the material is put for the thing itself.
(1) A Part for the Whole. - There is a clear economy of interpreting power in the first form of synecdoche. Whenever any object is mentioned, some purpose is aimed at. The nature of this purpose determines the view taken of the object. Some one part must be more suggestive of this view than any other. (Hill)

13. (2)The Whole for a Part.- Sometimes, on the contrary, there is an economy of interpreting power in using the whole for a part. There is here danger of violating the principle, that the specific is more expressive than the general. (Hill)

13. (3) The Material for the Object. - The material of an instrument may be more expressive of the idea than the outlines associated with its proper name, and hence the third form of synecdoche often has an economic value. (Hill)

14. Synecdoche is a figure in which the name of a part is used to represent the whole, or the name of the whole is used to represent a part, or a definite number to represent an indefinite; as (1) "All hands were at work." (Here a part is put for the whole.) (2) "The world condemns him." (In this, the whole is put for a part.) (3) "Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain." (A definite number represents an indefinite.) In like manner, an attribute may be put for a subject; as "Youth and beauty," for "The young and the beautiful"; and sometimes as subject for its attribute. (Waddy)

15. La synecdoque est ... une espèce de métonymie, par laquelle on done une signification particulière à un mot, qui dans le sens propre a une signification plus générale ; ou au contraire, on done une signification générale à un mot qui dans le sens propre n'a qu'une signification particulière. En un mot, dans la métonymie je prens un nom pour un autre, au lieu que dans la synecdoque, je prens le plus pour le moins, ou le moins pour le plus. ... Voici les diférentes sortes de synecdoques
que les grammairiens ont remarquées.
(I) synecdoque du genre : come
quand on dit les mortels pour les homes, le
terme de mortels devroit pourtant comprendre
aussi les animaux qui sont sujets à la mort
aussi bien que nous: ainsi, quand par les
mortels on n'entend que les homes, c'est une
synecdoque du genre: on dit le plus pour le
moins. ...
(Ii) il y a au contraire la synecdoque
de l'espece: c'est lorsqu'un mot, qui dans
le sens propre ne signifie qu'une espèce particulière, se prend pour le genre; c' est ainsi qu'on apèle quelquefois voleur un méchant home. C'est alors prendre le moins pour marquer le plus. ...
(Iii) synecdoque dans le nombre.
C'est lorsqu'on met un singulier pour un plurier, ou un plurier pour un singulier.
[1] le germain revolté, c'est-à-dire, les germains, les alemans, l'énemi vient à nous, c'est-à-dire, les énemis. ...
[2] le plurier pour le singulier. Souvent
dans le stile sérieux on dit nous au lieu de
je, et de męme, il est écrit dans les prophètes, c'est-à-dire, dans un des livres de quelqu'un des prophètes.
[3] un nombre certain pour un nombre
incertain. il me l'a dit, dix fois, vint fois, cent fois, mile fois, c' est-à-dire, plusieurs fois.
[4] souvent pour faire un compte rond, on
ajoute ou l'on retranche ce qui empêche
que le compte ne soit rond
(Iv) la partie pour le tout, et le tout pour la partie. Ainsi la tête se prend quelquefois pour tout l'home: c'est ainsi qu'on dit comunément, on a payé tant par tête, c'est-à-dire, tant pour chaque persone
(V) on se sert souvent du nom de la matiere
pour marquer la chose qui en est faite, le
pin ou quelqu'autre arbre se prend dans les
poètes pour un vaisseau; on dit comunément
de l'argent pour des pièces d'argent, de la

Synecdoche is ... a species of metonymy, by which we give a particular significance to a word which in its proper sense has a more general significance; or, on the contrary, we give a general significance to a word which in its proper sense has only one particular signification. In one word, in metonymy I take one name for another, while instead in synecdoche I take the more for the less, or the less for the more. ... Here are the different sorts of synecdoches which the grammarians have noted.
(I) Synecdoche of genre: like when we say “mortals” for men, the term “mortals” should also include the animals which are subject to death just as well as we are: likewise, when by “mortals” we hear only men, it’s a synecdoche of genre: we say more for less. ...
(II) there is, on the contrary, the synecdoche of species: that is when a word, which in its proper sense only signifies a particular species, is taken for the genre; it is thus that we sometimes call a mean man a robber. It is therefore taking the less to mark the more. ...
(III) Synecdoche in the number. It’s when we put a singular for a plural, or a plural for a singular.
[1] Germany has revolted, that is to say, the Germans, the German people. The enemy comes to us, that is to say, the enemies. ...
[2] the plural for the singular. Often in the serious style we say “we” instead of “I” and again, “it is written in the prophets” that is to say, in one of the books of one of the prophets.
[3] a certain number for an uncertain number. He told me ten times, twenty times, a hundred times, a thousand times, that is to say, many times.
[4] Often to round off a tally we add or subtract that which impedes the number from being round
(IV) The part for the whole and the whole for the part. Thus “the head” is sometimes taken for the whole man: it’s thus that we commonly say, “we paid so much per head,” that is, that much for each person;
(V) We often use the name of the matter to indicate the thing of which it is made, the pine or other tree is taken in poetry for a boat; we commonly say “silver” for pieces of silver, for money. (Du Marsais [trans. Abbott])

16. "an exchange of the name of the part for the whole, or of the name of the whole for the part. There are two kinds of totall comprehensions; an entire body, or a generall name;...where the part of an intire body goes for the whole." (Blount)

17. "Synecdoche is a figure in which a name is given to an object that suggests more or less than we intend. Synecdoche is really a species of metonymy, but on account of its importance rhetoricians have given it a name of its own. It always represents the whole by a part or a part by the whole. Synecdoche may therefore take either of two forms: 1. A part for the whole…. 2. The whole for a part." (Raub)

18. Synecdoche or Comprehension is a Trope which puts the Name of the Whole for a Part, or of a Part for the Whole; a General for a Particular of the same kind, or a Particular for a General. (Blackwall)

19. The exchange of one idea for another associated idea... A figure by which one word receives something from another which is internally associated with it by the connection of two ideas: as when a part of a thing is put by a kind of Metonymy for the whole of it, or the whole for a part. The difference between Metonymy and Synecdoché lies in this; that in Metonymy, the exchange is made between two related nouns; while in Synecdoché, the exchange is made between two associated.
Synecdoché of the Genus is where the genus is put for a species.
Synecdoché of the Species is where a species is put for the genus.
Synecdoché of the Whole is where the whole is put for a part: and
Synecdoché of the Part where a part is put for the whole.
These four divisions may be further described and set forth as follows:-
I. Synecdoché of the GENUS
i. All for the greater part.
ii. Universal affirmative does not affirm particularly.
iii. Universal negative does not deny particularly.
iv. Universals for particulars.
v. Wider meanings for narrower.
II. Synecdoché of the SPECIES.
i. Many for all.
ii. Narrower meaning for wider.
iii. Proper names for common.
iv. A species put for whole genus.
v. Verbs: special for general.
vi. One example or specimen for all kinds.
III. Synecdoché of the WHOLE.
i. All or every for the whole.
ii. Collective for the particular.
iii. The whole for one of its parts.
iv. A place for a part of it.
v. Time for a part of it.
IV. Synecdoché of the PART.
i. An integral part of man (individually) for the whole man, etc.
ii. An integral part of men (collectively) for the whole.
iii. A part of a thing for the whole thing.
iv. A part of a time for the whole time. (Bullinger, 617-618)

20. Synec'doche.—This is a species of metonymy, in which a part is put for the whole, or the whole for a part. (Johnson, 270)

21. SYNECDOCHE. Synecdoche, from the Greek (Sunekdechomai,) to comprehend: this Trope is a form of speaking, when we make use of words that are more comprehensive, for others which are less: and so on the contrary, when we put the name of a part to signify the whole, or else the name of the whole to express any particular part of it; as if you say, the plague is in France, when perhaps it is only in Paris. (Norwood, 59-60)

22. A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which the name of a part denotes the whole, or the name of the whole denotes a part. As we grasp a part of a thing more easily than the whole, that branch of the figure in which the name of the part denotes the whole presents the object more vigorously than does the other, and is more common and more valuable than the other. Its rhetorical value consists in the fact that it puts a thing well known in place of one less known. (Kellog, 128-129)

23. Synecdoche (or subintellectio), where one thing is substituted for another, part for whole, genus for species, and vice-versa. (Vickers 498)


1. The rustler bragged he'd absconded with five hundred head of longhorns. (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. Listen, you've got to come take a look at my new set of wheels.(Silva Rhetoricae)

1. "He shall think differently," the musketeer threatened, "when he feels the point of my steel." (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. " Were not those nuptial flutes reminding you of his marriage?" (Ad Herennium)

2. "You display your 45 riches to me and vaunt your ample treasures." (Ad Herennium)

2. "To the Carthaginian came aid from the
Spaniard, and from that fierce Transalpine. In
Italy, too, many a wearer of the toga shared the same sentiment." (Ad Herennium)

2. "Dread disaster smote his breasts with grief; so, panting, from out his lungs' very depth he sobbed for anguish." (Ad Herennium)

3. Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood! (JC 3.1 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

5. (1) "So the sea may be put for the waves of the sea."

5. (2) "The head shall signify the man, the pole the heavens, the point the sword, the winter the whole year, and the general shall include both himself and the army." (Gibbons)

5. (3) "Put up your weapon, that is your sword." (Gibbons)

5. (4) "In Psal. xlvi. 9. the Almighty is said to 'break the bow, and cut the spear in sunder, and to burn the chariot in the fire;' that is, God destroys all the weapons of war …." (Gibbons)

4. Caesar, for the King. Aristides, for a just man. (JG Smith)

4. Craesus, for a rich man. Auster, for the wind. (JG Smith)

4. It is not my sword that can help me· where by Sword is understood all kinde of weapons and manners of defence. (JG Smith)

7. "'Come in, auld carl, I'll steer my fire,
I'll make it bleeze a bonnie flame;
Your bluid is thin, ye've tint the gate,
Ye shouldna strat sae far frae hame.'"
"'Nae hame have I,' the minstrel said;
'Sad party-strife o'erturn'd my ha';
And weeping at the close of life,
I wander through a wreath of snaw.'"
- Pickering (Macbeth)

8. Ten Summers, i.e. Years, have I lived under this Roof, i.e. House. Now the Year, i.e. Spring, is the most beautiful. (Holmes)

9. "I abjure all roofs." (Hart)

9. "She has seen sixteen summers." (Hart)

9. "An old man of eighty winters." (Hart)

9. "The colt will be three years old next grass." (Hart)

9. "Thirty sail were seen off the coast." (Hart)

9. "The snows of sixty winters whitened his head." (Hart)

10. "(1.) bread for the necessaries of life generally; cut-throat for murderer or assassin; sums for arithmetic….(2.) every man is not a Solomon; he is a Craesus (in wealth); a Jezebel….(3.) a vessel for a ship, a creature for a man….(4.) as in Dryden:--'Nor durst begin / To speak, but wisely kept the fool within.' Again:-- "A tyrant's power in rigor is exprest, / The father yearns in the true prince's breast.' Fool is put for folly, and father, the concrete, is used for fatherly affection." (Bain)

11. "(1.) As, fifty sail; all hands at work, they sought his blood…. (2.) as, the smiling year, for the spring; 'cursed by the day when a man-child was born.' (3.) as, the glittering steel (for the sword); the marble speaks; the canvas glows, wine ten years in the wood. (4.) as, my love, my joy, my delight, my admiration, my aversion, my horror, for the causes of those feelings." (Bain)

13. (1) Considered as a messenger bearing good news, we may say of him, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things;" viewed as demanding bodily sustenance, "This officer has a thousand mouths to feed;" contemplated merely as a worker, "All hands were busily occupied;" regarded simply as human being, "Eight souls were saved." (Hill)

13. (2) To speak of the "Roman nation" does not impress the mind with the grandeur and extent of the empire which embraced nearly ever civilized laud, so well as to say, "the roman world." (Hill)

13. (3) Thus "gold" is often more suggestive than "money." (Hill)

13. (3) In the following stanza "steel" is better than "sword," as suggestive of the fineness of edge which a steel blade is capable of taking:
"The wounds that are dealt by that murderous steel
Will never yield case for the surgeons to heal." (Hill)

16. "As, my name is tossed and censured by many tongues, for many men…. Contrariwise he crarries a Gold-smiths shop on his fingers, for Rings." (Blount)

17. "[1.] as sail for ships, waves for ocean, winters for years. Thus, 'the snows of many winters have whitened his head. …[2.] as, 'All America was aroused by the contest;' that is, many of the people of America." (Raub)

18. Leave Earth my Muse and soar a glorious Height,
Tell me what Heroes slew the gallant Hector,
Cycnus, and Memnon terrible in Arms. (Blackwall)

18. Ye cursed Swords and Altars which I scap'd! (Blackwall)

19.[ex. from I. i.] Ex. 9:6. -"And all the cattle of Egypt died": i.e., all kinds of cattle, not all the individual animals of all species. The Heb. has no article. (Bullinger, 618)

19. [ex. from II. i.] Dan. 12:2. -"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake": i.e., all to whom the prophecy refers. See John 5:28. But "every man in his own order"; or rank and time and according to the Dispensation. (Bullinger, 628)

19. [ex. from III. i.] Num. 16:3. -"Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them": i.e., the whole congregation having been separated to the Lord from the other nations, each person was also included. (Bullinger, 639)

20. Thus: "He was a suitor for the hand of the princess," and "I took the train for Boston." (Johnson, 270)

21. Luke 2. 1. It came to pass that all the world was to be taxed; meaning the whole Roman Empire, a small, though very remarkable, part of the world. (Norwood, 60)

21. Exod. 9. 6. And all of the cattle of Egypt died; which signifies not universally, as if every kind of beast were destroyed, but only, or at least chiefly those that then were in the field; for that some were preserved alive is plain enough from ver. 19.
Thus, all flesh, Gen. 6. 12. And all creatures, Mark 16. 15. signify man
And, every creature, implies only some of each sort, and not all of every kind, Gen. 7. 8. (Norwood, 60)

23. These are the ushers of Martius: before him he carries noise, and behind him
he leaves tears. . .
--Shakespeare, Coriolanus, 2. 1.158 (Vickers 498)

Kind Of Similarity
Part Of metonymy
Related Figures metonymy, litotes, metalepsis
Notes JG Smith addes types of synecdoches:Synecdoche Speciei, Synecdoche Partis, Synecdoche Generis, Synecdoche Totius, Synecdoche Numeri. It is also a Gram. figure when a common word or name is restrained to a part, which is expressed by the Accusative case, &c. (JG Smith ) -[nike] Bain has two definitions for this figure -[nike] From Hart: The word synecdoche means comprehension, that is, including many parts under the name of one of them, and the most common form of the figure is that first described, in which a part is taken for the whole. Come il est facile de confondre cette figure avec la métonymie, je crois qu'il ne sera pas inutile d'observer que ce qui distingue la synecdoque de la métonymie, c' est [1] que la synecdoque fait entendre le plus par un mot qui dans le sens propre signifie le moins, ou au contraire elle fait entendre le moins par un mot qui dans le sens propre marque le plus. [2] dans l'une et dans l'autre figure il y a une rélation entre l'objet dont on veut parler et celui dont on emprunte le nom; car s' il n'y avoit point de raport entre ces objets, il n'y auroit aucune idée accessoire, et par conséquent point de trope: mais la rélation qu'il y a entre les objets, dans la métonymie, est de telle sorte, que l'objet dont on emprunte le nom subsiste indépendanment de celui dont il réveille l'idée, et ne forme point un ensemble avec lui: tel est le raport qui se trouve entre la cause et l'éfet, entre l'auteur et son ouvrage, entre Cérès et le blé; entre le contenant et le contenu, come entre la bouteille et le vin: au lieu que la liaison qui se trouve entre les objets, dans la synecdoque, supose que ces objets forment un ensemble come le tout et la partie; leur union n'est point un simple raport, elle est plus intérieure et plus dépendante: c'est ce qu'on peut remarquer dans les exemples de l'une et de l'autre de ces figures. As it is easy to confound this figure with metonymy, I believe that it would not be useless to observe that which distinguishes synecdoche from metonymy, it’s (1) that synecdoche makes heard the more by one word which in its proper sense signifies less, or on the contrary, it makes heard the less by a word which in its proper sense indicates more. (2) in one and in the other figure there is a relation between the object about which we want to speak and that from which we borrow the name; since, if there was never any relation between these objects, there will not be any accessory ideas and by consequence no trope: but the relation that is between the objects in metonymy is of such a kind that the object from which we borrow the name subsists independently of that which awakens the idea and does not form an ensemble with it: such is the rapport which is found between cause and effect, between an author and his works, between Ceres and the wheat, between the contained and the container, like between the bottle and wine: instead of the liaison which is found between the objects, in synecdoche suppose that these objects form an ensemble like the whole and the part; their union is not a simple rapport, it is more interior and dependent: that is what we can remark in the examples of one and the other of these figures. (Du Marsais [trans. Abbott]) - [nike]
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Last Editor Daniel Etigson
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