Difference Between Metaphor and Metonymy
Metaphor and metonymy are similar in various aspects but the major difference is that if a metaphor substitutes a concept with another, a metonymy selects a related term. So, if metaphor is for substitution, metonymy is for association. For example, the sentence ‘he is a tiger in class’ is a metaphor. Here the word tiger is used in substitution for displaying an attribute of character of the person. The sentence ‘the tiger called his students to the meeting room’ is a metonymy. Here there is no substitution; instead the person is associated with a tiger for his nature.
So metonymy is a figure of speech. It is used in rhetoric where a thing is not referred by its name but with the associated word. A metaphor is an expression. This expression shows the similarity between two things on some aspects. In metonymy, the association of the word is based on contiguity, while in a metaphor; the substitution is based on similarity. If metaphor can be used to define the transference of relation between set of things to another, metonymy is used to define a word. Metonymy uses a single characteristic for the identification of a complex entity.
Another difference between metaphor and metonymy is that a metaphor acts by suppressing an idea while metonymy acts by combining ideas. But both metaphor and metonymy are used to express ideas which are greatly different from the original meaning in the psychic realm. When a person uses a metonymy, the qualities are not transferred from the original word to the metonymy. But in metaphor, when there is a comparison, the comparison is based on the qualities and some qualities are transferred from the original to the metaphor, in the process.
Metaphor is an extension to a word’s meaning on the account of similarity and metonymy is a way of extending the meaning of a word based on its association to another. Metaphor can be used to refer to a word in an object category to make it in the abstract semantic category. Metonymy can be used in informal or insulting situations as well. For example, the association of brain to a person means he is intelligent, and asshole is a metonymy for an idiotic person in an insulting manner.
So we can say that if metaphor is used for substitution and condensation, a metonymy is used for combination and displacement.
1.Metaphor is used for substitution, while metonymy is used for association.
2.Metaphor can mean condensation and metonymy can mean displacement.
3.A metonymy acts by combining ideas while metaphor acts by suppressing ideas.
4.In a metaphor, the comparison is based on the similarities, while in metonymy the comparison is based on contiguity.
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Written by : Manisha Kumar. and updated on December 3, 2009
Manisha Kumar. "Difference Between Metaphor and Metonymy." DifferenceBetween.net. December 3, 2009 < http://www.differencebetween.net/language/difference-between-metaphor-and-metonymy/ >.