Figure Name metalepsis
Source Quintilian 8.6.37-38; Susenbrotus (1540) 11 ("metalepsis," "transumptio"); Sherry (1550) 41 ("metalepsis," "transsumptio," "transsupcion" [sic]); Wilson (1560) 200 ("transumption"); Peacham (1577) C4v; Putt. (1589) 193 ("metalepsis," "the farrefet"); Day 1599 79 ; Silva Rhetoricae (; JG Smith (1665) ("metalepsis"); Macbeth (1876); Holmes (1806) ("metalepsis"); De Mille (1882); Du Marsais (1730) ("la métalepse"); Bullinger (1898) ("metalepsis; or, double metonymy"); Norwood (1742) ("metalepsis"); Vickers (1989) ("metalepsis")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms transumptio, transumption, the farrafet, compound metonymy, double metonymy
Etymology from Gk. meta, "change" and lambanein "to take" ("to change the sense")
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. Reference to something by means of another thing that is remotely related to it, either through a farfetched causal relationship, or through an implied intermediate substitution of terms. Often used for comic effect through its preposterous exaggeration. A metonymical substitution of one word for another which is itself figurative. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Participation: it is the multiplying of a trope in one word, and is when there are many tropes in one word, &c.; Metalepsis, Transumptio, participatio, Participation or a taking from one another, derived from [metalambano] transumo, aut particeps sum, to take of, or partake with another. Metalepsis is a forme of speech whereby the Oratour or speaker in one word expressed, signifieth another word or thing removed from it by certain degrees. Or, It is the cloathing of a Trope with excellency, or the multiplying of a Trope in one word; to wit, first, when by one improper word another is signified, then by that improper word perhaps another, and so one after another till it comes to the proper word, a mean or middle degree, which affords a passing over or change intervening. It is the continuation of a Trope in one word through the succession of significations. This Trope is a kinde of Metonymie, signifying by the Effect a Cause far off by an effect nigh at hand; and it teaches the understanding to drive down to the bottome of the sense, and instructs the eye of the wit to discern a meaning afar off; for which properly it may be aptly compared to an high prospect, which presents to the view of the beholder an object remote, by leading the eye from one mark to another by a lineal direction, till it discerns the object inquired.(JG Smith)

3. Metalepsis has also to be carefully catalogued, not without wonder - Compound Metonymy. In Virgil's first "Eclogue," line 70, Meliboeus speaks of revisiting his old homestead-
"After some breads of corn;"
where "breads" stand for ears of corn; "ears of corn" for the corn crop; the corn crop for autumn; autumn for the year. (Macbeth)

4. By Metalepsis, in one word combin'd More Tropes than one you easily may find. (Holmes)

Metalepsis is founded on the relation between antecedent and consequent. (De Mille)

6. La métalepse est une espèce de métonymie,
par laquelle on exprime ce qui suit
pour faire entendre ce qui précède ; ou ce qui
précède pour faire entendre ce qui suit ... c'est l'antécédent pour le conséquent, ou le conséquent pour l'antécédent

Metalepsis is a species of metonymy, by which we express what follows in order to make heard that which precedes; or that which precedes to make heard that which follows ... it`s the antecedent for the consequence, or the consequence for the antecedent(Du Marsais [trans. Abbott])

7. Two Metonymies, one contained in the other, but only one expressed... The Figure is so called, because something more is deficient than in Metonymy, which has to be supplied entirely by the thought, rather than by the association or relation of ideas, as in the case in Metonymy. This something more that is deficient consists of another Metonymy, which the mind has to supply. Hence Metalepsis is a double or compound Metonymy, or a Metonymy in two stages, only one of which is expressed. (Bullinger, 614)

8. METALEPSIS. Metalepsis multiplies a Trope in one word, when one improper term serves to express another by it, till you arrive at the
most proper one of all. (Norwood, 36)

9. Metalepsis, attributing a present effect to a remote cause. (Vickers 496)


1. Pallid death
The effect of death is to make the body pale. Ascribing this effect to death itself as an adjective here is an example of metalepsis.

He is such a lead foot.
This means, "he drives fast" but only through an implied causal chain: Lead is heavy, a heavy foot would press the accelerator, and this would cause the car to speed.

In Laurence Sterne's novel, Tristram Shandy, Tristram blames his troubled life and character (the effect) on his parents' ill-timed conception of him (the remote cause)—a rather comical and extended example of metalepsis. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. "Virgil" by ears of corn signifieth summers, by a Metonymie of the subject; and by summers, years, by a Synecdoche of the part.

They invade and enter the City, drowned in sleep and wine, (i e,) they invade Troy, or the Trojans buried in sleep and wine. (JG Smith)

4. Euphrates, (i.e. Mesopotamia, i.e. its Inhabitants) moves War. (Holmes)

5. Byron in the following lines suggests the total destruction of the host of Xerxes:
"He counted them at break of day,
But when the sun set where were they!" (De Mille)

6. Ainsi le nom des diférentes opérations de
l' agriculture se prend pour le tems de ces
opérations, c' est le conséquent pour l'antécédent, la moisson se prend pour le tems de la moisson

Therefore the name of different operations of agriculture are taken for the time of these operations, it’s the consequence for the antecedent, the harvest is taken for the time of harvest (Du Marsais [trans. Abbott])

7. Gen. 19:8. -"Therefore came they under the shadow of my roof."
Here, "roof" is first put (by Synecdoche) for the whole house, of which it was a part: and then the house is put for the protection it afforded. (Bullinger, 614)

8. Matt. 21. 20. All the city was moved: the word city here signifies Jerusalem; the general term comprehending the particular, by Synecdoche generis, and Jerusalem denotes the inhabitants of it, by a metonymy of the subject. (Norwood, 36)

8. Lament. 4. 4. The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for very thirst: here (fust?) by the extreme thirst of the sucking infant, is signified the barren and dry breasts of the mother; and by her want of milk, extreme hunger and famine; and by famine, the dismal poverty and misery of the people. (Norwood, 36)

9. There spake my brother! There my father's grave
Did utter forth a voice.
--Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, 3.1.86 (Vickers 496)

Kind Of Identity
Part Of metonymy
Related Figures Figures of Substitution, metonymy, catachresis, hyperbole, synecdoche
Notes I say it is a part of metonymy--indeed, a kind of super-metonymy. -Craig
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No