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[si-nek-duh-kee] /sɪˈnɛk də ki/
noun, Rhetoric
a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special, as in ten sail for ten ships or a Croesus for a rich man.
1350-1400; < Medieval Latin < Greek synekdochḗ, equivalent to syn- syn- + ekdochḗ act of receiving from another, equivalent to ek- ec- + -dochē, noun derivative of déchesthai to receive
Related forms
[sin-ik-dok-ik] /ˌsɪn ɪkˈdɒk ɪk/ (Show IPA),
synecdochical, adjective
synecdochically, adverb
Can be confused
Schenectady, synecdoche. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for synecdoche


a figure of speech in which a part is substituted for a whole or a whole for a part, as in 50 head of cattle for 50 cows, or the army for a soldier
Derived Forms
synecdochic (ˌsɪnɛkˈdɒkɪk), synecdochical, adjective
synecdochically, adverb
Word Origin
C14: via Latin from Greek sunekdokhē, from syn- + ekdokhē interpretation, from dekhesthai to accept
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for synecdoche

late 14c., "part for whole or vice versa," from Medieval Latin synodoche, from Late Latin synecdoche, from Greek synekdokhe, literally "a receiving together or jointly," from synekdekhesthai "supply a thought or word, take with something else," from syn- "with" (see syn-) + ek "out" (see ex-) + dekhesthai "to receive," related to dokein "seem good" (see decent). Figure in which an attribute or adjunct is substituted for the thing meant ("head" for "cattle," etc.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for synecdoche

figure of speech in which a part represents the whole, as in the expression "hired hands" for workmen or, less commonly, the whole represents a part, as in the use of the word "society" to mean high society. Closely related to metonymy-the replacement of a word by one closely related to the original-synecdoche is an important poetic device for creating vivid imagery. An example is Samuel Taylor Coleridge's line in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "The western wave was all aflame," in which "wave" substitutes for "sea." See also metonymy.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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