I hope that you will avail yourself of the chapter file on Synecdoché from the book by
Dr. E. W. Bullinger entitled “Figures Of Speech Used In The Bible”. In it are many examples of this figure’s use throughout the Bible. This, as with all other figures discussed in the book, was not intended to be exhaustive, listing every occurrence, but simply to provide examples for further study.

Having worked through these examples in the past year, there are a few that I disagree with, but overall it provides ample example of the figure, and should help us to identify its use, as well as to clear up many misunderstood scriptures.

Dr. Bullinger’s definition of the figure, although I do not disagree with it, I believe falls short of helping the disciple to fully and clearly understand the figure. Therefore I offer a key that came to light for me, which I believe will help others as well.

Dr. Bullinger’s definition of Synecdoché is as follows…..”A figure by which one word receives something from another which is internally associated with it by the connection of two ideas: as when a part of a thing is put by a kind of Metonymy for the whole of it, or the whole for a part. The difference between Metonymy and Synecdoché lies in this; that in Metonymy, the exchange is made between two related nouns; while in Synecdoché, the exchange is made between two associated ideas.”

My dissatisfaction with this definition is not in it being incorrect, but in it being ambiguous
(not clearly understandable). Is there a difference between an association and a relation?

Here are a few definitions of the words relation and association. When I went to school many years ago, we were taught that an acceptable definition of a word can never contain within it the actual word being defined. You cannot use the word you are defining to define the word you are defining. .

As nouns the difference between Association and Relation
is that association is the act of associating while relation is the manner in which two things may be associated.

As nouns the difference between Association and Relationship
is that association is the act of associating while relationship is connection or association; the condition of being related.

As·so·ci·at·ed, as·so·ci·at·ing
verb (used with object), to connect or bring into relation, as thought, feeling, memory, etc.:
Many people associate dark clouds with depression and gloom.

3. Connection between things; mutual respect, or what one thing is with regard to another; as the relation of a citizen to the state; the relation of a subject to the supreme authority; the relation of husband and wife, or of master and servant; etc.

3. Union of things; apposition, as of particles of matter.

4. Union or connection of ideas. An association of ideas is where two or more ideas constantly or naturally follow each other in the mind, so that one almost infallibly produces the other.

, adjective
1. Joined in interest or purpose; confederate.

By now you can see my dissatisfaction with the ambiguity associated with the relation these two words have in defining Metonymy and Synecdoche. I believe a better way to understand these two figures is to first understand Metonymy, and then to view Synecdoche as a special form of Metonymy.

A Metonymy deals with the changing of one word for another to which it has a relation, and Synecdoche is a Metonymy that makes that change through quantity. Whether it be a part for the whole or the whole for a part, a quantity is being changed. A part is a lesser quantity or amount of the whole, and the whole is a greater part or quantity than the part. A species is one part of a larger group, the genus, and therefore a smaller amount of the whole. A genus is a larger part to which the species belongs. Therefore, both genus for species, and species for genus deal with amount. They have a relation to one another because they deal with the change of one word or idea for another word with which they have an association. This change, then, qualifies them as Metonymy, for indeed “hand”, being a quantitative part of the whole body, expresses a relation “hand” has to the whole body as a part for the whole.

“All hands on deck”, or “hired hand” are terms where a part of the body is used for the whole individual. It would be unrealistic to think “all hands on deck” meant only the hands of the individuals on board a ship were to be above deck, while the rest of the person remained below deck. It would likewise be inconceivable to think one could “hire a hand”, but not the entire individual. The hand has a relationship to the whole individual through its association with the individual as a part of the individual’s body. This change of words for other words, that have a relation to each other, makes Synecdoche a Metonymy through association.

A Metonymy deals with a defining characteristic or quality of a word as it relates to another word, and Synecdoche does this quantitatively. Therefore, when thinking of Metonymy, think quality or characteristic, and when considering Synecdoche, think of a quantity. Qualitative versus Quantitative is the key that I believe will help us better grasp these figures.

I hope that you will join me in a thorough investigation of this principle by utilizing the examples given in the book. Together we can look at the examples of Metonymy and Synecdoche given in the book to better comprehend these two figures.

Synecdoche: defined and examples from “Figures Of Speech Used In The Bible“.

The exchange of one idea for another associated idea.

Syn-ek’-do-kee. Greek, ςυνεκδοχή, from ςύν (sun), together with, and ἐκδοχή, a receiving from. A figure by which one word receives something from another which is internally associated with it by the connection of two ideas: as when a part of a thing is put by a kind of Metonymy for the whole of it, or the whole for a part. The difference between Metonymy and Synecdoché lies in this; that in Metonymy, the exchange is made between two related nouns; while in Synecdoché, the exchange is made between two associated ideas.
[See A Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell, Henry George, 1811-1898 ;
Scott, Robert, 1811-1887
; pg. 1483]

. Synecdoché of the Genus is where the genus is put for a species.

. Synecdoché of the Species is where a species is put for the genus.

. Synecdoché of the Whole is where the whole is put for a part: and

. Synecdoché of the Part is where a part is put for the whole.

i. ALL is put for the greater part.
Dr. Bullinger’s comments are within [brackets].

Ex. 9:6 “And all the cattle of Egypt died”:

[i.e., all kinds of cattle, not all the individual animals of all species. The Hebrew has no article.

The kinds of cattle are particularised in verse 3. This must be so, for no sane writer could stultify himself by meaning “all” in any other sense, when he goes on to speak of other beasts immediately after, in verse 10. …..]

And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.”

Here we can see that one word “all” is used to mean another word or words
(“most”, or “the greater part”) as in Metonymy, where one word is changed for another.
It is clear that a quantity is in mind.

Ex. 9:25 “And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt.”
[etc.: i.e., all parts of it, or the greater part.]

Here again, it is clear that a quantity is in mind.


I. Metonymy of the CAUSE.

This is when the cause is put for the effect; and it is of four kinds:
i. The person acting for the thing done.

1. The Spirit for the gifts and operations of the Spirit.
John 3:34 “For God giveth not the Spirit by measure to Him”:
[(i.e., the gifts and operations produced by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person, and cannot, therefore, be measured out or given by measure. The “measure” must consequently mean the measure of His power or gifts bestowed.)]

Note: although the word measure is used here, and measure is something done with quantity, this is not a Synecdoche because a part is not used to represent the whole, and vice versa. But here in John 3:34 the word measure (metron) is not a verb, but a noun. Spirit does not have an amount according to measurable physical standards.

John 6:63 “The words that I speak unto you, they, are spirit
(i.e., the gift and operation of the Spirit of God),
and they are life
(i.e., they give and produce divine, spiritual and eternal life).”