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Metaphor vs. Metonymy: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sumera Saeed || By Sara Rehman || Updated on November 28, 2023
A metaphor is a figure of speech that implies a comparison between two unlike things, while metonymy replaces the name of a thing with something closely related to it.

Key Differences

Metaphor is a literary device that draws an implied comparison between two unrelated things, suggesting a similarity. Metonymy, however, involves substituting the name of one thing with the name of something else closely associated with it.
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023
In a metaphor, one thing is said to be another to highlight a similarity, often using 'is' or 'are'. In contrast, metonymy replaces the name of a thing with that of another closely related item, like using 'the White House' to mean 'the President'.
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023
Metaphor creates a direct relationship between two disparate things, often for poetic or illustrative effect. Metonymy, on the other hand, relies on the logical or associative connection between two related entities.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 25, 2023
Metaphor is used to convey deeper meanings or to create vivid images in the reader's mind. Metonymy, however, is often employed for brevity or stylistic convenience, replacing longer descriptions with a concise term.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 25, 2023
While metaphor often requires the reader to imagine a connection between two distinct items, metonymy draws upon existing, often widely recognized, associations between closely related subjects.
Harlon Moss
Nov 25, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Nature of Comparison

Unrelated things
Closely related things
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Method

Implied comparison
Substitution
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Example

"Life is a journey."
"The White House announced..."
Sumera Saeed
Nov 25, 2023

Usage Purpose

Illustrative, poetic effect
Brevity, stylistic convenience
Janet White
Nov 25, 2023

Reader's Inference

Requires imagination
Relies on known associations
Janet White
Nov 25, 2023
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Metaphor and Metonymy Definitions

Metaphor

A figure of speech comparing two unlike things.
Her laughter was music to his ears.
Harlon Moss
Nov 15, 2023

Metonymy

A figure of speech where one thing is represented by another that is commonly and sensibly associated with it.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Sara Rehman
Nov 15, 2023

Metaphor

A tool for creating vivid imagery or expressing abstract concepts.
His words were a sharp sword.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Metonymy

Substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant.
The suits were at the meeting.
Harlon Moss
Nov 15, 2023

Metaphor

A literary technique for describing something by associating it with something else.
The world is a stage.
Janet White
Nov 15, 2023

Metonymy

A form of semantic substitution in language.
Hollywood is producing more sequels.
Harlon Moss
Nov 15, 2023

Metaphor

An implied analogy or symbolic representation.
Time is a thief.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 15, 2023

Metonymy

A rhetorical strategy used to describe something indirectly.
The Oval Office was busy with decisions.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Metaphor

A rhetorical device to represent one thing as another.
The classroom was a zoo.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 15, 2023

Metonymy

A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated, as in the use of Washington for the United States government or of the sword for military power.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Metaphor

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in "a sea of troubles" or "All the world's a stage" (Shakespeare).
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Metonymy

(rhetoric) The use of a single characteristic or part of an object, concept or phenomenon to identify the entire object, concept, phenomenon or a related object.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Metaphor

One thing conceived as representing another; a symbol
"Hollywood has always been an irresistible, prefabricated metaphor for the crass, the materialistic, the shallow, and the craven" (Neal Gabler).
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Metonymy

(countable) A metonym.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Metaphor

The use of a word or phrase to refer to something other than its literal meaning, invoking an implicit similarity between the thing described and what is denoted by the word or phrase.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Metonymy

A trope in which one word is put for another that suggests it; as, we say, a man keeps a good table instead of good provisions; we read Virgil, that is, his poems; a man has a warm heart, that is, warm affections; a city dweller has no wheels, that is, no automobile.
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Metonymy

Substituting the name of an attribute or feature for the name of the thing itself (as in `they counted heads')
Sara Rehman
Nov 14, 2023

Metonymy

Using a linked term to stand in for an object or concept.
The track won first place.
Janet White
Nov 15, 2023

FAQs

Can metaphors be literal?

No, metaphors are not literal; they’re figurative or symbolic.
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Is metonymy based on literal relationships?

Yes, metonymy is based on literal, logical, or associative relationships.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 25, 2023

What is a metaphor?

A figure of speech that symbolically compares two unlike things.
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

How do metaphors enhance language?

Metaphors add depth and creativity, illustrating abstract ideas vividly.
Harlon Moss
Nov 25, 2023

What is metonymy?

A figure of speech that replaces the name of one thing with a related entity.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 25, 2023

Why is metonymy used in language?

Metonymy is used for conciseness and stylistic effect.
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Do metaphors and metonymy have the same effect?

No, they have different effects; metaphors evoke imagery, metonymy suggests direct associations.
Janet White
Nov 25, 2023

Can metaphors be mixed?

Yes, but mixed metaphors can be confusing or humorous.
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Can a metaphor be a single word?

Usually, metaphors are phrases or sentences, not single words.
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Is metonymy always obvious?

Metonymy can be subtle, relying on the reader's knowledge of associations.
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

How do metaphors influence thought?

Metaphors can shape how we perceive and think about concepts.
Harlon Moss
Nov 25, 2023

Can a phrase be both metaphor and metonymy?

Rarely, as they operate on different principles of association.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 25, 2023

Can metonymy be used in poetry?

Yes, metonymy is often used in poetry for its concise expression.
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

How do children learn metaphors?

Through exposure and gradually understanding figurative language.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 25, 2023

Is metonymy common in everyday speech?

Yes, it's common in idiomatic expressions and casual conversation.
Janet White
Nov 25, 2023

Are metonyms always culturally universal?

No, metonyms can vary based on cultural or contextual knowledge.
Janet White
Nov 25, 2023

Are metonyms easy to translate in other languages?

Translation can be challenging if the associative logic differs culturally.
Janet White
Nov 25, 2023

Is it possible for a metaphor to become a cliché?

Yes, overused metaphors can become clichés.
Janet White
Nov 25, 2023

Can metaphors be visual?

Yes, metaphors can be conveyed through visual art as well as language.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 25, 2023

Do metonyms change over time?

Yes, as associations and cultural references evolve, so do metonyms.
Sara Rehman
Nov 25, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sara Rehman
Sara Rehman is a seasoned writer and editor with extensive experience at Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Information Technology, she combines her academic prowess with her passion for writing to deliver insightful and well-researched content.
Edited by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.

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