The Synekdoche is a stylistic medium that encounters us in texts of all kinds and literary genre and belongs to the group of the tropics. The Synekdoche replaces one term with another one, which originates from the same field of meaning and is thus a part of the word itself, or an upper concept for this. Consequently, the meaning may be broad or narrow.
The name of the stylistic figure can be derived from the Greek (συνεκδοχή ~ synekdoché) and translated with co-author. This translation does not provide clear indications on the function of the stylistic figure, which is often the case (pleonasmus, climax, etc.). Let us look at an example.
We all live under one roof.
The above example for the Synekdoche is most probably known from the everyday language. Here the word roof is used for the whole house or apartment. Thus, part of the concept meant for the whole. There are also numerous such formulations in everyday life: head for person, plate for the whole meal or England for the whole United Kingdom.
Germany welcomes the action of the USA.
However, the whole can also stand for a part of the term, as is clearly shown in the above example sentence. There is the fact that Germany welcomes an action. What is meant, however, is that the government of the country welcomes action. The whole thing stands for a small part. Furthermore, we find in the example a personification, since the land is humanized → personification.
It is important that, in connection with the Synekdoche, either a part of the concept for the whole or the whole stand for a part of the concept. We therefore distinguish two special forms.
Pars pro toto is a special form of Synekdoche. Translated, it means: A part [stands] for the whole. We speak of a pars pro toto, if part of the concept stands for the whole.
Totum per parte is another form of Synekdoche. Translated it means: The whole [stands] for a part. We speak of a totum per parte, if the whole stands for a part of the term.
Synekdoche, metaphor and metonymy
The Synekdoche is related to the metaphor and the metonymy, since these are based on a similar relation between the individual words. However, there are differences.
The metaphor also replaces one term with another. In contrast to the Synekdoche, however, this does not derive from the same field of meaning and is not a sub-concept or concept, nor a part of the intended word (cf. examples of the metaphor).
This desert ship will bring us safely to the destination.
The term desert ship is a metaphor for the camel. However, the term has nothing to do with the camel itself. This means that one word has been replaced by another, which is not related to the actual term and which comes from another concept field.
It would be different if we redesigned the sentence as follows: “These bumps will surely bring us to the goal!”. This would be a synekdoche, since the hump of the camel is part of the animal.
Note: The metaphor is therefore related to the Synekdoche because both are based on the fact that the actual word is replaced by another term. The difference, however, is that the Synekdoche always uses a word from the same concept field.
The metonymy is another stylistic figure, similar to the Synekdoche. In principle, the Synekdoche can even be considered a special form of metonymy. However, there are some features that distinguish the two terms from each other, even if the transition between the stylistic means is fluid.
The metonymy means that in one context one term is replaced by another. This substitution is in a real relation to what the actual concept signifies. This can be, for example, the relationship between producer and product. Let us take an example.
This iron will be your end!
The word iron is another term for the weapon that consists of this. Since the weapon was forged from iron, there is a very real relationship between the metonymy and the actual concept itself and not just a relationship between part and whole.
It would be different if we redesigned the sentence as follows: “This blade will be your end!”. This would be a Synekdoche, since the blade of the weapon is part of the weapon (sword) itself.
It should be seen that the boundaries between metonymy and synekdoche are almost fluid. The most important difference is therefore that the Synekdoche always describes a relationship between part and whole, and the metonymy means the substitution by a concept which is in a real relation to it. Synekdoche can be regarded as a special form of metonymy.