Figures of Speech

A figure of speech is a word or phrase that has a meaning something different than its literal meaning. It can be a metaphor or simile that is designed to further explain a concept. Or, it can be a different way of pronouncing a word or phrase such as with alliteration to give further meaning or a different sound.

1. Alliteration

The repetition of an initial consonant sound.

Example: Sally sells seashells.

2. Allusion

The act of alluding is to make indirect reference. It is a literary device, a figure of speech that quickly stimulates different ideas and associations using only a couple of words.

Example: David was being such a scrooge!. (Scrooge" is the allusion, and it refers to Charles Dicken's novel, A Christmas Carol. Scrooge was very greedy and unkind, which David was being compared to.)

3. Anaphora

The repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or verses. (Contrast with epiphora and epistrophe.)

Example: I came, I saw, I conquered – Julius Caesar

4. Antaclasis

It is a rhetorical device in which a word is repeated and whose meaning changes in the second instance. Antanaclasis is a common type of pun.

Your argument is sound, nothing but sound. – Benjamin Franklin.
The word sound in the first instance means solid or reasonable. The second instance of sound means empty.

5. Anticlimax

Refers to a figure of speech in which statements gradually descend in order of importance.

She is a great writer, a mother and a good humorist.

6. Antiphrasis

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is used to mean the opposite of its normal meaning to create ironic humorous effect. From the Greek : anti "opposite" and phrasis, "diction".

She's so beautiful. She has an attractive long nose.

7. Antithesis

The juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases.

Many are called, but few are chosen.

8. Apostrophe

Breaking off discourse to address some absent person or thing, some abstract quality, an inanimate object, or a nonexistent character.

"O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times."
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1

9. Assonance

Identity or similarity in sound between internal vowels in neighboring words.

"The crumbling thunder of seas" – Robert Louis Stevenson

10. Cataphora

Refers to a figure of speech where an earlier expression refers to or describes a forward expression. Cataphora is the opposite of anaphora, a reference forward as opposed to backward in the discourse.

After he had received his orders, the soldier left the barracks. (he is also a cataphoric reference to the soldier which is mentioned later in the discourse.

11. Chiasmus

A verbal pattern in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first but with the parts reversed.

He knowingly led and we followed blindly

12. Climax

Refers to a figure of speech in which words, phrases, or clauses are arranged in order of increasing importance.

"There are three things that will endure: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13

13. Dysphemism

Refers to the use of a harsh, more offensive word instead of one considered less harsh. Dysphemism is often contrasted with euphemism. Dysphemisms are generally used to shock or offend.

Snail mail for postal mail.

14. Ellipsis
Refers to the omission of a word or words. It refers to constructions in which words are left out of a sentence but the sentence can still be understood.

15. Euphemism

The substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit.

Going to the other side for death
Passed away for die

16. Hyperbole

An extravagant statement; the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or heightened effect.

The bag weighed a ton.

17. Irony
The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. A statement or situation where the meaning is contradicted by the appearance or presentation of the idea.
His argument was as clear as mud.

18. Litotes
A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.

19. Merism
It is a figure of speech by which something is referred to by a conventional phrase that enumerates several of its constituents or traits.
Flesh and bone. (Referring to the body).

20. Metaphor

An implied comparison between two unlike things that actually have something important in common.

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
(William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7)

21. Metaplesis

It is a figure of speech in which reference is made to something by means of another thing that is remotely related to it, either through a causal relationship, or through another figure of speech.

A lead foot is driving behind me. (This refers to someone who drives fast. This metalepsis is achieved only through a cause and effect relationship. Lead is heavy and a heavy foot would press the accelerator, and this would cause the car to speed.)

22. Metonymy

A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it's closely associated; also, the rhetorical strategy of describing something indirectly by referring to things around it.

Crown. (For the power of a king.)
The White House. (Referring to the American administration.)

23. Onomatopoeia

The use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.


24. Oxymoron

A figure of speech in which incongruous or contradictory terms appear side by side.

Dark light
Living dead

25. Paradox

A statement that appears to contradict itself.
Drowning in the fountain of eternal life
Deep down, you're really shallow.

26. Personification

A figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities.

"Ah, William, we're weary of weather,"
said the sunflowers, shining with dew.
"Our traveling habits have tired us.
Can you give us a room with a view?"
They arranged themselves at the window
and counted the steps of the sun,
and they both took root in the carpet
where the topaz tortoises run.
William Blake

27. Pun

A play on words, sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words.

"Atheism is a non-prophet institution." (The word "prophet" is put in place of its homophone "profit", altering the common phrase "non-profit institution")

28. Simile

A stated comparison (usually formed with "like" or "as") between two fundamentally dissimilar things that have certain qualities in common.

He fights like a lion.

29. Synecdoche

A figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole (for example, ABCs for alphabet) or the whole for a part ("England won the World Cup in 1966″).

A hundred head of cattle (using the part head to refer to the whole animal)

30. Tautology

A statement that says the same thing twice in different ways, or a statement that is unconditionally true by the way it is phrased.

Forward planning
It's a free gift.

31. Understatement

A figure of speech in which a writer or speaker deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is.

"The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace."
(Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress")

Figure of Speech Examples


Hyberbole Examples

1) The king's nose was three feet long!

2) That food was so hot my ears were smoking!

3) Usain Bolt runs faster than a cheetah!

4) I'm so tired I could sleep a year.

5) He cried so long that he made a lake!

6) I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!

7) You have a million toys at your house!


Metaphors Examples

You are my guardian angel!

I wish you weren't always such a chicken!

Johnny's mouth is one huge metal factory.

Onomatopoeid Examples

The leaves crunched under my feet.

Buzz, Splat, drip, beep, ring

Oxymoron Examples

Here are some funny oxymorons :

1) Clearly Misunderstood
2) Exact Estimate
3) Small Crowd
4) Act Naturally
5) Found Missing
6) Fully Empty
7) Pretty Ugly
8) Seriously Funny
9) Only Choice
10) Original Copies
11) Open Secret
12) Tragic Comedy
13) Foolish Wisdom
14) Liquid Gas

Mother of all Oxymorons is-

15) "Happily Married".


Simile or Metaphor