Meronymy is a PART-WHOLE relation. The sentence frames 'X is part of Y' or 'Y has X' are used to describe meronymic relations.

e.g. Cover is a meronym of book. A book has a cover.


Holonymy is the opposite PART-WHOLE relation. The whole is a holonym of the part.

e.g. Tree is a holonym of bark.

Meronymic relationships form hierarchical classifications, like hyponymic relationships, but these are less clear-cut than taxonomies.


The boundary between Meronymy and Hyponymy can be blurred.

Industry – Chemical Industry

Chemical industry is a part of industry in general (Meronymy), and it is also a specific type of industry (Hyponymy).


Types of Meronymy

Functional Component (heart – body)

Segment – Whole (piece – cake)

Element – Set (sheep – flock)

Subset – Set (fruit – food)


Winston et al.

Component – Integral Object (pedal – bike)

Member – Collection (ship – fleet)

Portion – Mass (slice – pie)

Stuff – Object (steel – car)

Feature – Activity (paying – shopping)

Place – Area (Everglades – Florida)




Some meronymic relationships are transitive.

Nail – Finger – Hand

A finger has a nail.

A hand has a finger.

A hand has a nail.


It is unclear whether some meronymic relationships are intransitive.

The following example is often used to illustrate intransitivity.

Simpson's finger – Simpson – Philosophy department

Simpson's finger is a part of Simpson.

Simpson is part of the Philosophy department.

? Simpson's finger is a part of the Philosophy department.


One argument as to why some meronymic relations are intransitive is that they cross over different types of meronymy.

Simpson's finger is a part of Simpson – Component – Integral Object

Simpson is part of the Philosophy department – Member - Collection