Is there a word to describe when a part becomes the name for the whole, particularly in a jargon sense?

For example, a door to door salesman at the end of the day might talk about how many "doors" he visited, rather than houses, or a pathology nurse might talk about "doing veins" rather seeing patients?

I read a definition along these lines years and years ago, but I've completely forgotten the word. If possible I'm trying to find this same word again.

  • 2
    Try searching "part for the whole": you should come up with metonymy. Jun 20, 2016 at 10:49
  • 1
    See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synecdoche Jun 20, 2016 at 10:59
  • 1
    I've got no idea how this could be a duplicate of the linked question
    – Bamboo
    Jun 20, 2016 at 11:06
  • Well the linked question explains synecdoche & metonymy, so it (albeit indirectly and implicitly) answers yours @phill.
    – k1eran
    Jun 20, 2016 at 11:08
  • They're related, but clearly distinct questions.
    – Bamboo
    Jun 20, 2016 at 11:21

2 Answers 2


I'd say that would be a synecdoche.

A synecdoche (/sɪˈnɛkdəkiː/, si-nek-də-kee; from Greek συνεκδοχή, synekdoche, lit. "simultaneous understanding")1 is a figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something or vice versa



The more common word used is metonymy. The classic examples of that would be calling a car "wheels" or a police officer a "copper" (what their badges were made of), or military officers "brass" (their button material).

me·ton·y·my məˈtänəmē/

noun: metonymy; plural noun: metonymies

the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant, for example suit for business executive, or the track for horse racing.


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