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Description

Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a speaker uses a part of something to refer to the whole thing, or uses the whole to refer to a part.

My soul magnifies the Lord. (Luke 1:46b ULT)

Mary was was very happy about what the Lord was doing, so she said “my soul,” which means the inner, emotional part of herself, to refer to her whole self.

So the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing that which is not lawful?” (Mark 2:24a ULT)

The Pharisees who were standing there did not all say the same words at the same time. Instead, it is more likely that one man representing the group said those words.

Reasons This Is a Translation Issue

  • Some readers may not recognize the synecdoche and thus misunderstand the words as a literal statement.
  • Some readers may realize that they are not to understand the words literally, but they may not know what the meaning is.

Example From the Bible

Then I looked on all the deeds that my hands had accomplished. (Ecclesiastes 2:11a ULT)

“My hands” is a synecdoche for the whole person because clearly the arms and the rest of the body and the mind were also involved in the person’s accomplishments. The hands are chosen to represent the person because they are the parts of the body most directly involved in the work.

Translation Strategies

If the synecdoche would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here is another option:

(1) State specifically what the synecdoche refers to.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

(1) State specifically what the synecdoche refers to.

My soul magnifies the Lord.” (Luke 1:46b ULT)

I magnify the Lord.”

So the Pharisees said to him … (Mark 2:24a ULT)

A representative of the Pharisees said to him …

Then I looked on all the deeds that my hands had accomplished. (Ecclesiastes 2:11a ULT)

I looked on all the deeds that I had accomplished