Good Essay On Meronymy And Hyponymy: Differences And Similarities

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Hyponymy, Community, Finger, Logic, Linguistics, Cinema, Film, Subset

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/12/04

Meronymy and hyponymy are two different concepts that exist in lexical semantics. They are separate concepts, although they overlap at a number of points. Meronymy and hyponymy are not unique to English, although there are some usages of these concepts in the English language that are very difficult for English as a second language speakers to grasp. These two terms, for the purposes of discussion here, can be understood as separate of each other; they are inverse terms in the linguistic discussion of the English language.
Meronymy must first be distinguished from a similar linguistic term: “metonymy.” Metonymy is a different, although similar linguistic term that means when something is referred to by a related concept. Perhaps the most commonly-cited example of metonymy is the idea of the American film industry being called “Hollywood;” although Hollywood is a place and not a film industry, it is generally understood that when “Hollywood” is used to discuss films, it is the film industry itself that is being referred to (Hargraves, 2015). This is quite different and distinct from the idea of meronymy, as meronymy is what happens linguistically when someone refers to something as a smaller part of its whole. For instance, calling a car a “ride” is metonymy, while calling that same car “wheels” is meronymy (Hargraves, 2015). These two concepts are distinct and separate, although they can be difficult to distinguish without careful examination.
Whenever something is referred to as a whole by one of its smaller parts—a hand being referred to as “a finger,” or “counting heads” in reference to counting participants—the linguistic concept that is being employed is meronymy. To distinguish the difference between meronymy and hyponymy, it is first important to distinguish exactly what each term refers to, and metonymy and meronymy are commonly confused terms. Holonymy is generally considered to be the opposite of meronymy. This is because holonymy is the relationship between the whole and the part. Where meronymy uses a smaller piece of the set to refer to the set as a whole, holonymy would use the whole to refer to the smaller parts of the subset.
Hyponymy, on the other hand, is something that exists as a subset of something else. Dogs are a subset of animals, and are therefore hyponyms of the animal group. While it may seem as though these are the same thing, meronymy is a device that is commonly used in logic, whereas hyponymy is merely a term that is used to denote the difference between the larger set and the smaller subset (Hargraves, 2015). It is important to note that there are some glaring differences between meronymy and hyponymy. For instance, meronymy is using something small to refer to something larger; hyponymy is merely the descriptor that means “a thing that is contained within the subset of a larger group.” If the larger group is “all real numbers,” for instance, then a hyponym of this group is the number six, or the number ten thousand. These members of this group are the hyponyms for the larger group.
However, this is distinct from the idea of meronymy. Meronymy uses hyponyms as linguistic ideas; as a part of the hand, a finger is a hyponym for hand. Meronymy would use that finger as a linguistic device to be part of the whole—part of the hand (Hargraves, 2015). For instance, when saying that one would refuse to “lift a finger to help” someone, the individual is employing poetic speech in a very colloquial way. This kind of speech may be very difficult for a non-native speaker to understand, because the finger referred to in the speech refers to so much more than merely the finger that an individual has on his or her hand. It has a whole host of implications that are not immediately clear in the completion of the phrase. In a hyponym, the phrase might be read “a dog is an animal.” In meronymy, that same idea may be expressed as “dogs are members of the group known as animals.” The distinction is small, but it is indeed a distinction, if only in terms of logical analysis.
Hyponymy is commonly used as a descriptor—something is a hyponym if it is used in the type of logic that can be described as meronymy logic. According to Hargrave (2015), meronymy is commonly used as first-order logic, In some contexts, the terms hyponymy and meronymy may be used interchangeably, but for the most part, meronymy is commonly used in logic, while hyponymy is commonly used to describe the relationships between parts and wholes. Categorization and sub-categorization are very important ideas insofar as meronymy and hyponymy are concerned. In the context of logic and logical discussion, meronymy is more commonly used for the part-whole discussion. In other terms, hyponymy is commonly used to describe things that are subsets or smaller parts of larger sets.


Cruse, D. (1986). Lexical semantics. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge University Press.
Hargraves, O. (2015). How Do You Solve a Problem Like Meronymy? : Language Lounge : Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus. Retrieved 3 March 2015, from
Lieber, R. (2004). Morphology and lexical semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Trips, C. (2009). Lexical semantics and diachronic morphology. Tübingen: M. Niemeyer.

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Good Essay On Meronymy And Hyponymy: Differences And Similarities. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 04, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2023.

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