Let's say carrot for a shade of orange.

Suppose carrot is not used for the color and I wanted one to describe the vegetable's color. So, I revive the displaced more for the color. What do you call such revival?

  • There are no obsolete words in your question, which makes it difficult to follow your example. Could you use a real obsolete word, or even make one up? (How about farb for colour, for example?) – Andrew Leach Sep 23 '18 at 6:39
  • @AndrewLeach When I looked up "farb" I got a pejorative term used for historical reenactors. Then I found Farbe is German for colour. Did we have farb (colour) before? – Zebrafish Sep 23 '18 at 12:25
  • @Zebrafish It's purely an example of a word not known in current English which is being pressed into service with a specified meaning. – Andrew Leach Sep 23 '18 at 12:26

Although carrot is not an obsolete word, what is being described here is a metonym. It does not matter if the word is obsolete or not. If you need a word for something new and you repurpose an existing word it is a metonym. This is different from a metaphor where the word is used to describe the new thing with the old meaning. These are so confusing than Wikipedia has an article on this specific issue.

Computing provides some examples of obsolete, or at least obscure, words being used as metonyms, such as sprite, gremlin and bus. This last is of course still in use, but not in the sense that led to its use in computing.

  • Metonym: A word, name, or expression used as a substitute for something else with which it is closely associated. For example, Washington is a metonym for the federal government of the US. Yet you say: "If you need a word for something new and you repurpose an existing word it is a metonym." ...very different. Are you sure metonym applies here? – tmgr Sep 23 '18 at 23:07
  • There are no clear boundaries between the terms. If the only purpose of the process is to find a new word for a concept then I consider this a canonical metonym and that the Washington example is somewhere between a metaphor and a metonym. But it is generally agreed that there will never be agreement on this. A classic example of metonymy is when you need a name for a geographical feature so you use a bit of anatomy instead: the mouth of a river, the head of a valley, the foot of the mountain. In time people stop thinking of the part of the body and just treat these as geographical terms – David Robinson Sep 23 '18 at 23:39
  • Metonym: a word used in metonymy - a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated (such as "crown" in "lands belonging to the crown") Again, you should really ask yourself if that applies. Also re metaphor v metonym, maybe read this ...it's a lot more straightforward than the Wikipedia article you linked to. Also, it's best on SE to back up your assertions with sources. – tmgr Sep 23 '18 at 23:54
  • I think the problem is that metonym is used in somewhat different ways when it is being used in literary analysis and in linguistics. I am not using the term as a figure of speech but as a term coming under the heading of semantic change. This is discussed in Philip Durkin's The Oxford Guide to Etymology, Oxford, 2009, sections 8.6.4 and where he gives the example of the French word bureau which undergoes the sequence of semantic changes: type of baize cloth > desk > office. – David Robinson Sep 24 '18 at 0:14

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