Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Metonymy is the process of replacing the usual sign relating to a concept being referred to by another indirect word or code.

explanatory context

For example, using turf to refer to horseracing, or crown to refer to monarch.


In structuralist analysis 'metonymy' is sometimes used instead of diachrony.

analytical review

Encyclopædia Britannica (2019) states:

Metonymy, (from Greek metonymia, "change of name," or "misnomer"), figure of speech in which the name of an object or concept is replaced with a word closely related to or suggested by the original, as "crown" to mean "king" ("The power of the crown was mortally weakened") or an author for his works ("I'm studying Shakespeare"). A familiar Shakespearean example is Mark Antony's speech in Julius Caesarin which he asks of his audience: "Lend me your ears."

Metonymy is closely related to  synecdoche, the naming of a part for the whole or a whole for the part [such as 'wheels' for 'car' or conversely 'Liverpool' for the city's 'football team'], and is a common poetic device. Metonymy has the effect of creating concrete and vivid images in place of generalities, as in the substitution of a specific "grave" for the abstraction "death." Metonymy is standard journalistic and headline practice as in the use of "city hall" to mean "municipal government" and of the "White House" to mean the "president of the United States."

associated issues


related areas

See also




copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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