Synecdoche means multiple meanings. Readers will be able to read 'what is synecdoche in Literature' and 'Synecdoche with Examples' in this article.

What is Synecdoche in Literature?

Synecdoche means multiple meanings. Readers will be able to read ‘what is synecdoche in Literature’ and ‘Synecdoche with Examples’ in this article.

Origin of Synecdoche

Synecdoche comes from the Greek word “Synekdoche” which means multiple meanings.

Pronunciation of Synecdoche:

Suh Nek Duh Kee (Synecdoche)

What is Synecdoche?

It’s a figure of speech in which something alludes indirectly, either by identifying simply a component of it or, more often, by naming a larger entity of which it is a part.

In other words, Synecdoche is used as part for the whole, or the whole is used for the part. Instead of explaining the thing originally, hidden meanings are used to refer to it.

Synecdoche with Examples

i) All hands were at work
ii) They sought his blood

The above examples are indirectly referred to their source, which is an example of a Synecdoche. ‘All hands were at work’ refers to the workmen and blood is the example of life.
i) He was buried under this tone.
ii) A foeman is worthy of his steel.

‘The buried under this stone refers to the table which is made of stone and the second example refers to the sword.

i) He is the macho man in his territory.
ii) He is no Athenian statesman

Here the macho man is a synecdoche of the strongest man and the ‘Athenian statesman’ refers to the orator.

i) Italy won the match.
ii) Bread and butter.

Here the ‘Italy’ stands for the Italy football team and ‘bread and butter’ refers to the bread for eating.

What is Synecdoche in Literature?

People commonly ask question about ‘what is synecdoche in literature’. The answer is easy. The poet uses a code word or we can say the specific word, that is referring or indicating some specific idea or narrative. In literature, synecdoche is an easy tool which writers adopt in praise of his beloved or dare one.

Synecdoche Examples in Literature:

Philip Larkin’s “The Whitsun Weddings”
In parodies of fashion, heels, and veils

In the above line, the poet refers to the girls in ‘heels and veils’ who is ready for the marriage. Here the synecdoche has been used by using the term ‘heels and veils’ which indirectly points out the girls.

The Thought Fox (Ted Hughes)

Two eyes serve a movement, that now

The poem is about a fox. While mentioning her eyes, the writer employs the term ‘two eyes’. Here the figure of speech, ‘synecdoche’ has been used which indirectly points out the eyes of the fox.

When you are Old (William Butler Yeats)

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

The lines are directly addressed to Maud Gonne (lover of the poet). He praises her eyes which are so beautiful. The figure of speech ‘synecdoche’ has been used by the writer by employing the words, ‘slowly read’, ‘dream of the soft look’. He is profound of her eyes instead of her body.

Leda and the Swan (William Butler Yeats)

Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast

Here the above lines indicate the incident that happened with the Leda (character). Swan committed rape on her. The writer describes that dreadful moment by employing the figure of speech. ‘Butler’ does not articulate the complete story but rather narrates the short part of the incident, which signifies indirectly what happened with the Leda.

John Donne’s “The Dream”

“Thine eyes, and not thy noise wak’d me.”

The poem is purely an imaginative piece of art, written about the poet’s lover. “Donne” is so much absorbed in the sensuous feel of her lover that he considers her eyes as the source of his awakening and pleasure. He does not describe his lover but rather only talks about her eyes.

Ozymandias By P.B. Shelly

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them.

The whole poem narrates the physical features of the ‘Ozymandias’. The statue invites the attention of the poet. When he grazed the hands of the sculptor, he considers them as the source of mocking. Although he finds the whole body of the Ozymandias as sardonic, he only explains the hands of the sculptor using synecdoche.

King Lear by William Shakespeare

To be a comrade with the wolf and owl

The ‘King Lear’ play is an example of a synecdoche. “The wolf and the owl” indicates the general category of wild animals with which Lear would much rather dwell than his daughter Goneril in this case.

Synecdoche Vs. Metonymy

Synecdoche is a figure of speech that is used for indication of the original word or thing. To understand ‘synecdoche’ look at these examples given below:

i. Wheels (an indication toward the car)
ii. Threads (refer to the cloth)
iii. Iron man (a man with a strong muscular body)
iv. Hands of the mean(workers)
v. Sails (ships)

Metonymy is a figure of speech, in which the one word refers to the other having the same qualities. For example, when we use the word, “King” it ultimately configures an idea that we are talking about the head of the State.

When one says that he is reading Shakespeare, it means that he is reading the work of Shakespeare. Similarly when someone says, the ‘bunch of suits’ it means that he is referring to a group of business people. There are some more examples of metonymy.

Press indicates Journalist
The symbol of the duck indicates peace.
The symbol of the heart refers to love.
The green flag is also used for peace.
Black is the symbol of death or mourning.

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