Difference between metaphor and metonymy.

Often, words with a figurative meaning are metaphors and metonymy. In recognizing those and others, many have difficulty. However, there is a noticeable difference between these language tools.


Metaphor is a word (expression), in the meaning of which there is a hidden comparison of objects according to one or another criterion. The similarity can be in shape (tape of the road), location (train tail), color (golden hair), number (a handful of people), sound (rain drumming) and other characteristics.

Metonymy is a substitution of vocabulary in the composition of expressions, produced on the basis of a direct connection between certain concepts. For example, the following can be replaced in words: a work - by the author (read Bulgakov), content - with a container (a frying pan was devoured), people - with their location (the city was asleep), the whole object - with its characteristic detail (Great, beard!).


In each case, the transfer of meaning occurs according to its own principles. At the same time, there is one unmistakable sign that allows you to correctly distinguish the linguistic phenomena under consideration. It consists in the fact that in the metaphor objects are compared that do not depend on each other in any way, but have some overlapping characteristic. In metonymy, on the contrary, concepts that are directly related to each other interact, but as such there is no similarity between them.

Let's consider the difference between metaphor and metonymy by examples. Let's take the combination "sweet dream". The first word in it is used in a metaphorical sense. But in the literal sense, completely different things can be called sweet, for example sweets or fruits. However, they have only one thing in common with healthy sleep - the pleasant feeling they get. Now let's turn to the expression “the audience applauded”. It contains metonymy. In fact, this implies that the audience applauded violently. But instead of people in this example, something closely related to them is called, namely the room in which such an audience was.

The metaphor can be rearranged and directly compared using the words “like”, “like”, “like”, “like”: The wires are fringed with hoarfrost. - Hoarfrost hangs on the wires like a fringe. Such a technique will not work with metonymy. For example, you can say “a Christmas tree has been organized for the children,” but “something like a Christmas tree has been organized for the children” sounds ridiculous.

It is possible to see the difference between metaphor and metonymy, and by analyzing what gives speech their use. Thus, a metaphor serves to create spectacular, memorable images based on interesting, often unexpected associations. This enriches the language and makes it more expressive. Metonymy, among other things, allows you to voice thoughts much faster. The long construction here can be replaced with just a couple of words: "early Dostoevsky" instead of "works written by Dostoevsky at the beginning of his career."


Metaphor Metonymy
Comparison of objects that are not directly related to each otherComparison of objects that are in close connection
Some characteristic of objects coincidesThe objects themselves are completely different
Easily converted into a comparisonIt cannot be used to make a comparative construction
Gives speech imagery, expressivenessAllows you to create short but capacious phrases; helps to highlight outstanding details from objects and people