Monday, July 13, 2009

The "M" "Nym" Words: Meronymy and Metonymy

Looking at the words "meronymy" and "metonymy" it is hard not to notice that they differ by only one letter. As with many words that share spelling similarities, small orthographic differences can make quite large semantic differences. I bring up this example primarily because the "r" and the "t" that differentiate the words are neighbors on the keyboard and thus more likely to be keyed in error.

Here are the differences between the two words:

The term "meronymy" is used to describe the part-whole relationship between items, for example: kitchen, bathroom and den are meronyms of house. A meronymy is a classification system similar to a taxonomy.

A metonymy, on the other hand, is more of a literary device than a classification system. The term "metonymy" is used for a identifying a referent by a word that is associated with it, for example: The White House is a metonym for the President and the Press is a metonym for news media (The Press sure ran with that story).


If you are interested in more about "nym" words please click here.


&dy said...

Is it fair to say that meronymy is a special case of metonymy?

Laura Payne said...

&dy - I don't think I would say that because a metonymy is really a figure of speech whereas a meronymy is scientific classification. They certainly do have similarities though when comparing devices from different fields (science and prose).

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