Is the phrase 'the dead' a synecdoche? In using it, the individuals are being collectively defined by the fact they are dead, rather than acknowledging their personhood. If it is not a synecdoche, is there another rhetorical trope which it can be classified as?


  • Relevant: accurate defintion for poetic devices – Cascabel Jan 2 '18 at 20:00
  • Not much use, I know, but grammatically, "the dead" is a fused-head noun phrase, where the adjective "dead" combines the function of head with that of modifier. We understand it to mean "the dead people". – BillJ Jan 2 '18 at 20:09

Whether personhood remains after death is a matter of theology, not rhetoric. In grammatical terms, it's a substantive adjective, that is, an adjective transformed into a noun. Past participles can be substantivized as well. Examples: the poor, the downtrodden, the wealthy, the sick, the homeless... Again, if one feels this usage robs people of their personhood, it still doesn't push this usage into a classical rhetorical term.

  • Don't forget active participles too. They're all noun phrases with an elided noun, which is "ones" (although that itself has an elision of "people" or "things"). – AmI Jan 2 '18 at 20:59
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    Without challenging the grammar issue here, I am slightly troubled by your suggestion that "whether personhood remains after death is a matter of theology". I would have thought that even the most confirmed atheist would accept that a dead individual's persona survived him or her in the memory of those living, and after that in the historical record. – WS2 Jan 2 '18 at 23:22

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