Pars pro toto
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Pars pro toto, Latin for "a part (taken) for the whole", is a figure of speech where the name of a portion of an object, place or concept represents the entire object, place or concept. It is distinct from a merism, which is a reference to a whole by an enumeration of parts, metonymy, where an object, place or concept is called by something or some place associated with the object, place or concept, or synecdoche, which can refer both to this and its inverse of the whole representing a part.
In the context of language, pars pro toto means that something is named after a part of it, or after a limited characteristic, in itself not necessarily representative for the whole. For example, "glasses" is a pars pro toto name for something that consists of more than just two pieces of glass. Pars pro toto is a common device in iconography, where a particular icon can stand for a complete set of characteristics. Examples of common pars pro toto usage in political geography include "Russia" or "Russians", for the entire former Russian Empire or former Soviet Union or its people, Taiwan for Republic of China, Holland for the Netherlands, and, particularly in languages other than English, using the translation of "England" in that language for "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Among English speakers "Great Britain" is a common pars pro toto shorthand for the entire United Kingdom.
The inverse of a pars pro toto is a totum pro parte, in which the whole is used to describe a part, such as widespread use of "America" (which originally named the entire western hemisphere to place it geographically, with alliteration, alongside Asia, Africa, "Europa," and ultimately Arctica, Antarctica and Australia) in place of "United States of America", "United States" or "USA". The term synecdoche is used for both, as well as similar metaphors, though in Greek it literally means "simultaneous understanding".
Pars pro toto (and totum pro parte) can be imprecise, controversial or even offensive. One example is the UK. Many people of the United Kingdom are unhappy with the generalization as England for the United Kingdom, partly because those not in England want to be referred to individually (a point of contention in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland, where many loyalists deny their "Irish-ness", preferring to replace the adjective for "British" or even "English"), and partly because those in England don't want to be thought of as the only people within the United Kingdom.
Certain place names are sometimes used to denote an area greater than that warranted by their strict meaning:
- "Antigua" for Antigua and Barbuda
- "Austria" for the former Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Habsburg-ruled lands
- "Salvador" for Bahia, and vice versa
- "The Balkans" for the entire Balkan Peninsula and historically-related parts of south eastern Europe
- "Bohemia" for the former Czech lands, now the Czech Republic
- "Bosnia" for Bosnia and Herzegovina
- "Denmark" for the erstwhile Kingdom of Denmark-Norway
- "England" for Great Britain, the British Isles and/or the United Kingdom (see British Isles (terminology)). Not normally used today by non-English Britons.
- "Great Britain" for the United Kingdom
- "Holland" for the Netherlands (see Netherlands (terminology))
- "Kathmandu" for all three districts inside Kathmandu Valley: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur District, Nepal.
- "Lithuania" for the historic Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Russia and Samogitia
- "Madras"/"Tamil" when referring to someone from South India which consists of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- "Mesopotamia" for the Middle East
- "Middle East" for the partially overlapping term Arab world
- "Monte Carlo" for Monaco
- "Naples" for the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
- "Newfoundland" for what is now called Newfoundland and Labrador
- "Noumea" for New Caledonia especially among Australians and New Zealanders
- "North America" for the United States and Canada, excluding Mexico.
- "Persia" for Iran
- "Piedmont" or "Piedmont-Sardinia" for the former Kingdom of Sardinia
- "Poland" for the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
- "Portugal" for the former United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves
- "Prussia" for the former German Empire
- "Rhode Island" for the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
- "Rome" for the Roman Empire and for Roman Civilization in general
- "Russia" for the former Soviet Union
- "Saint Vincent" for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- "Santo Domingo" for the Dominican Republic
- "São Tomé" for São Tomé and Príncipe
- "Scandinavia" for the Nordic countries
- "Serbia" for the former Yugoslavian states and the former union of Serbia and Montenegro (1992–2006, named Federal Republic of Yugoslavia before 2003)
- "South America" for partially overlapping term Latin America
- "Sublime Porte" or "Ottoman Porte" for the Ottoman Empire
- "Sweden" for the former Sweden-Norway.
- "Tahiti" for French Polynesia
- "Taiwan" for the (Free area of the) Republic of China, which consists of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu
- "Trinidad" for Trinidad and Tobago
- "Turkey" for the former Ottoman Empire
- "Vietnam" for the former French Indochina
- The use of capitals to denote capital regions or even entire countries such as "Canberra" for the Australian Capital Territory, "Ancient Rome" for the Roman Empire, "Chinese Taipei" for the (Free area of the) Republic of China or Taiwan
- "Wheels" for automobile
- "Keel" or "sail" for ship
- "Head" for individual farm animal, such as "twelve head of cattle" for "twelve cows, bulls, etc."
- "Big Ben" for Elizabeth Tower
- "pars pro toto - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
- Blair Arts Ltd. "Online Dictionary of Language Terminology (ODLT) s.v. totum pro parte". ODLT. Retrieved 2014-02-03.