Posted by: episystechpubs | October 7, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Metonyms

What is a metonym?

A metonym is a word, name, or expression used as a substitute for something else with which it is closely associated. For example, Washington is a metonym for the federal government of the United States. I’ve included a few metonyms below for you. For more, see the Wikipedia sites: metonyms and metonymy.

Word or phrase Original/literal use Metonymic use
brass A metal alloy (used for or in the manufacture of buttons, insignia and (traditionally) a family of musical instruments) Military officers
china The country China Chinese porcelain or other types of ceramic
city hall A city’s chief administrative building Local government or, more pejoratively, government in general

Most common use is in the adage "You can’t fight city hall."

crown/Crown A type of monarchical headwear Monarchy, especially the British monarchy (as "The Crown")
eyes and ears Sensory organs, used for visual and auditory perception A spy, someone who watches observes and reports information back to another party, perhaps a partner but typically a superior
gun A firearm An assassin, mercenary or soldier (as in "hired gun")
pink slip A discharge notice (historically, a slip of paper in an employee’s pay envelope) A layoff or termination of employment
red tape Tape that is colored red An overly bureaucratic process
suits Business attire (plural) Business executives and lawyers
tongue Oral muscle A language or dialect
10 Downing Street
("Number 10")
The official residence of the British Prime Minister The British Prime Minister and his or her staff
Broadway A street in Manhattan, New York City Broadway theatre; sometimes, although less accurately, commercial American theatre in general

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services


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