Are these sentences synecdoche or metonymy? "Lend me your ears" and "give me a hand." Please explain why.

1 Answer
May 15, 2018



What are synecdoche and metonymy? Well, here are their definitions, along with some examples:

"a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole or the whole for a part"

Examples (found from Your Dictionary, but slightly changed):

  • The word “bread” can be used to represent food or money. Bread is just a small area of food, but is used to represent the whole.

  • The word "wheels" refers to a vehicle. (He bought a new pair of wheels). Again, this is only part of the vehicle, but used to name the whole.

  • If a country wins a medal at the Olympics, it's common to say that "America won silver", or "France won gold". They are referring only to that country's team, not the whole country, so this is an example of a whole for a part.

"a figure of speech that consists of the use of the name of one object or concept for that of another to which it is related, or of which it is a part"

Examples (also found from Your Dictionary, and slightly changed):

  • "Crown" for royalty
  • "Eyes" for sight
  • The name of a team for the individual members

A well heard saying is that:

"The pen is mightier than the sword"

"Pen" stands for "the written word" or writing in general. "Sword" stands in for "military might". These are both examples of Metonymy.

So which are your two phrases? "Lend me your ears" and "give me a hand"? These are examples of metonymy, because they are standing in for something related to their word.

"Ears" for giving attention
"Hand" for helpful service

You are not asking for their literal ear or hand, just for their attention and service.