What Is a Metonym? (with Examples)

Metonyms

A metonym is a term used in place of a closely related term. For example, in the saying "The pen is mightier than the sword," "pen" is a metonym for communications (written text), and "sword" is metonym for violence.

metonym examples

Easy Examples of Metonyms

  • Tongue is a metonym for language.
  • Sweat is a metonym for hard work.
  • Capitol Hill supports the proposal.
  • (Capitol Hill is a metonym for the American seat of government.)
  • The top brass is contesting the cuts.
  • (Top brass is a metonym for the senior officers.)

Real-Life Examples of Metonyms

Metonyms closely resemble metaphors, but the thing being represented by a metonym will be a close match. (A metonym is often an attribute of the thing it represents.)
  • After college, he took to the bottle.
  • (The bottle is a metonym for alcohol.)
  • This is not how it will be portrayed by Fleet Street.
  • (Fleet Street is a metonym for the British national press.)
  • I've always kept my word, and my clients have always kept their word. (Civil litigator Robert Shapiro)
  • (Word is a metonym for promise.)

More Examples of Metonyms

Here are some more examples of metonyms with their origins explained:
MetonymOriginMetonymic Meaning
Number 10Number 10 Downing Street is the official residence of the UK's Prime Minister
  • The British Prime Minister
  • The British Government
  • The KremlinA Russian fortress or citadel
  • The Russian President
  • Russian government
  • Any Soviet government (historical)
  • The White HouseThe official residence of the President of the United States
  • The President of the United States
  • The US Government
  • brassA metal alloy historically used for military buttons and rank insignia
  • High-ranking officers
  • suitBusiness attire
  • Business executive
  • A lawyer (typically)
  • leadA heavy metal used to make the head of a bullet
  • Bullets
  • benchThe location in a courtroom where a judge sits
  • Judge
  • Members of a judiciary
  • Why Should I Care about Metonyms?

    Using metonyms is a good way to keep your writing interesting. It's also a good way of showing your readers that you trust them.
    • Westminster will convene a special session to debate the visit.
    • (Westminster is a metonym for The Parliament of the United Kingdom. Using this metonym tells your readers that you trust them to know where UK's parliament is situated or to work it out from context.)
    • "You can always trust that an audience is smarter than a studio thinks it is." (Film director Drew Goddard)
    • (Studio is a metonym for film makers, but, hey, you'd already worked that out.)
    Interactive Exercise
    Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited and printed to create exercise worksheets.

    See Also

    What is figurative language? What are metaphors? What are similes? What are homonyms? What are palindromes? What are anagrams? Glossary of grammatical terms