What Is a Metonym? (with Examples)

Metonyms

A metonym is a term used in place of a closely related term.

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.)

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)
  • (While studio is a metonym for filmmakers, this quote has been included to encourage you to trust your readers, but, hey, you'd already worked that out.)
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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