In this post, we will delve into a fun collection of synecdoche examples.
And along the way, you’ll learn exactly what synecdoche is, why it’s used, and how it can take your writing from zero to hero.
So, let’s share this amazing literary tool and see it in action.
What is Synecdoche?
Synecdoche (called sin-no-duh-kee) is a literary word that uses a part of something to represent a whole or a whole to represent a part.
In general, synecdoche breaks down into two types: microcosm and macrocosm:
- Microcosm using parts or elements to represent a larger whole, and
- Macrocosm doing the opposite: using a whole or larger group to represent a part.
Synecdoche vs. Metonymy
The line between synecdoche and metonymy is thin, but you’ll see why after we explain metonymy:
Metonymy is a literary word where a word or phrase is replaced by another word or phrase.
“We want shoes on the ground as soon as possible”
While the shoes (things usually worn by the soldiers) represent the soldiers.
Now let’s look at an example of the toe between synecdoche and metonymy:
“He asked her hands in marriage.”
At first glance, it seems obvious that the whole woman is represented by the hand, which we are looking at in synecdoche.
But since the woman’s hand will carry the wedding ring, you can also argue that her hand, in this case, serves as a proxy for her consent to marry him, which will make the is an example of metonymy.
Don’t sweat it if you’re still puzzled by the difference between these two literary terms; they confuse many people in the beginning. But to help you get comfortable with synecdoche, we’ll examine it many a more interesting example.
Let’s explore some examples of synecdoche, shall we?
Types of Synecdoche with Examples
When a part represents a whole
Microcosmic synecdoche uses some part of something to represent the whole, as you can see in the following examples:
- “Everything hands above ground!” – using “hands” to mean all crew members.
- “I want it head count from the morning,” – uses “head” to represent the whole person.
- “It’s good wheel!” – using “legs” to pull out the whole car.
When something represents something
Another type of microcosmic synecdoche refers to the use of an object, which becomes part of the most important thing – even when different objects are used for the same object.
- “Paper or plastic?” — These two materials are used to make food bags, which we are talking about here.
- “Are we clean? silver?” – uses silverware to represent a large class of eating or killing utensils, although most of these are not made of silver.
- “It’s inside book” — uses “book” to mean a newspaper, even if an article is found online.
When a specific Class represents an entire group
A third type of microcosmic synecdoche involves the use of a single class or noun to represent a broader class to which it belongs.
- “We want more Kleenex” – uses the famous brand name, Kleenex, to represent a large part of the facial tissue as a whole.
- “I want it Band Aid– uses the brand name, Band-Aid, to represent all classes of adhesive bandages.
- “I hate when they use it Styrofoam!” – the use of Styrofoam, which is the name, for polystyrene packaging.
When the whole group represents a part
Synecdoche that uses a whole to represent a small part is macrosomic.
Let’s look at some straightforward examples:
- “It’s a cruel world“- uses “world” to mean specifically people (in a certain situation) who are funny. “Cruel world” can also refer to negative experiences.
- “Let’s go to movie!” – uses “movie” to mean a movie playing in a local theater.
- “Forbes wanted to interview What! – uses Forbes Magazine to represent the reporter who will conduct the interview.
When a bag represents what it contains
In another example of macrocosmic synecdoche, the name of a container is used to indicate its contents:
- “Can you believe they’re charging this ten dollars cup?” – “Glass” here is not about the container itself but about the drink it holds.
- “They ate three meals box“- using “box” to mean whatever they had before.
- “I think it will come back to that bottlebut he proved me wrong” – where “bottle” stands for alcohol.
When a category represents something in that group
Finally, this type of macrocosmic synecdoche uses the same form as a container to mean the same thing in it.
- “America take home the gold” – using America as a larger category to represent the Olympians for the US team.
- “Denver beat new York in last night’s game” – using the names of certain states to represent their sports teams.
- “All his enemies were killed sword“- uses “sword” to represent all methods of killing, which may include stabbing.
20 More Examples of Synecdoche
Now that you know the different types of synecdoche, you will know how to find them in anything you read, watch or listen to. You’ll find some notable examples below, some of which stand out more than others.
Examples of Synecdoche in Character Names
It’s not uncommon to see synecdoche in character names, and below is just a sample. You can think of others.
- Fang – Hagrid’s dog from the Harry Potter series
- Red – Ellis Boyd Redding from The Shawshank Redemption
- Hot lips – Margaret Houlihan from the TV series Mash
- Blackbeard – famous seafaring pirate
- Grass – the cat from Toy Story
Examples of Synecdoche in Literature
Writing—both poetry and prose—reflects and adds to the use of everyday language, as you’ll see in these examples:
I heard a fly—when Emily Dickinson died
“I heard Fly – when I died – The Stillness in the Room
Like Pause in the Air –
In the Middle of the Storm –
No Eyes around – he cut them dry –
And the energy gathers well
For that last beginning – when King
Be a witness – in the house -“
Here, the “eyes” are those who surround the speaker as he lies dying.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“It’s that kind of voice ear followed up and down, as if each word were a set of notes that would never be played again.”
In this, “hearing” represents all the people who hear the author’s voice.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“The Westerners wave is all a-fire.
The day went well!
It’s almost sunset wave
rest wide and bright Sun.”
Here, “wave” represents the ocean.
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
“He’ll think differently,” the musketeer feared, “When he’s feeling mine metal“
“Steel” refers to one of the musketeer’s swords, referring to the material it is made of.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
“It’s yours.” The face Come on!”
In this, King Macbeth wants one of his servants to leave. “Face” refers to the slave’s overall presence.
Not to get all nerdy here, but this is a brilliant bit of synecdoche because face-to-face communication usually happens in, well, faces.
And lumping all people’s presence together as a “face” not only adds beauty, but is also offensive.
Synecdoche Examples in Conversation & Everyday Language
Synecdoche in everyday speech is often (though not always) better than poetry.
Let’s look at a few common examples:
- “That’s it the brain of work” – using the brain to represent the whole person whose intelligence is critical to the success of the work.
- “Let’s give this cast a shot hands for that inspiring work” – where the hand represents the act of clapping or clapping to show appreciation.
- “You have me all heart” – using “heart” to represent your whole being: heart, mind, body, and soul.
Examples of Synecdoche in Pop Culture
You’ll find synecdoche and pop culture references woven into the latest movies, magazines, TV series, books and blogs.
Here are some of our favorites:
- “You need it Coke?” – using a subtype to mean a can or bottle of cola, representing a large type of wine;
- “Tell the truth then.” strength“- where power represents those who have the ability to change things (good for good).
Here is an example of microcosmic synecdoche in Taylor Swift’s “Our Song,” where “our song” represents the memorable and emotional moments shared during a romantic relationship:
“Our music is a glass door,
Going out of your window,
When we’re on the phone and you speak softly,
‘Because time has passed and your mother doesn’t know…’.
Other famous examples of Synecdoche
Some words stay with us for centuries, whether they come from religious texts, popular books, or famous people throughout history. Here are a few examples:
- “Friends, Romans, citizens, give me yours ears” – (Julius CaesarShakespeare) where “ear” can represent the whole person or the whole attention of the person, of hearing and/or other important senses.
- “I should be two ways knitted fingers / Scuttling across the bottom of the calm sea” – (Love Poems by J Alfred PrufrockTS Eliot) where “dragging fingers” represent worthlessness.
- “Give us the day of our day Bread…” – (New Testament) while the bread shows all that the beggar should receive during the day.
- “Another day, another day dollars“- where a dollar (hopefully) represents enough dollars to support getting out of bed.
Reasons to Use Synecdoche in Writing
Writers use synecdoche for the following reasons:
- That’s why evoke mental images in those who read them – because the more intellectually involved, the longer things stay in your memory.
- That’s why make connections between ideaswhich engages memory and makes the words stand out.
The more in your reader’s mind you engage with your creative writing, the longer it will live in your reader’s memory.
That’s what makes this a poetic device:
Because it takes the familiar and does the unexpected to grab the reader’s attention.
What example caught yours?
How will these examples of synecdoche change your writing?
Now that you know what synecdoche is, and have experienced the whirlwind of 38 synecdoche examples, what does that mean for you?
When do you use synecdoche in your creative writing?
If nothing comes to mind, there is no concern. Chances are, you use it many times, even if you don’t remember.
That said, we invite you to carefully apply what you’ve learned here by writing some synecdoche examples of your own. These can be a small discussion, interesting comments, or part of a new blog post.
What should you try first?