What is metonymy? – Literary Terms 101

metonymy

metonymy: “A figure of speech that substitutes the name of a related object, person, or idea for the subject at hand. Crown is often substituted for monarchy…should not be confused with synecdoche, a substitution of a part of something for the whole or the whole for a part.” – NTC’s Dictionary of Literary Terms (1991)

This literary device is often used in poetry as a kind of metaphor that can provide context for the poem’s topic and the poet’s subjective view of the topic, yet reverberate as something more universal. In Mary Kinzie’s A Poet’s Guide to Poetry, she asserts that, “no matter what ideas fed the works, mental and emotional content must depend on objective counters and local embodiments to some degree. Without material embodiment, no spirit can come through the pattern.” Metonymy satisfies those conditions so frequently that many of us poets do it automatically or subconsciously if you want to go that far. For example, I used “flesh” to represent sin or shame in Blind With My Flesh – Judicium as a reference to how flesh is perceived in Abrahamic beliefs.

To my fellow poets and writers, have you looked back at your own work and noticed you do this too?

More Literary Terms

What is a moral criticism?

What is gothic?

What is allegory?

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