Figures of speech

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Figures of speech are rhetorical constructions that are to be taken non-literally. This rhetorical device is used to make a point in an emotional fashion or to make a point in a more vivid fashion in figurative language. The term figure of speech came into use at the turn of the eighteenth century. We will look at some of the most popular types of literary devices known as of figures of speech, with some examples. Figures of speech generally fall into two categories, tropes and schemes.

Tropes are figures of speech that change the meaning of the words, using comparison and plays on words to change the literal meaning of the words. Types of figures of speech that are tropes:

Hyperbole–an exaggerated statement.

Example: My teacher is as big as a house.

Irony–a statement using language to mean the opposite of the literal meaning.

Example: A flat tire! This is my lucky day!

Metaphor–a word or phrase in which one thing is referred to as another, different thing. A metaphor is a comparison or a symbol that is used to describe imagery.

Example: Her hands were Popsicles.

Oxymoron–a phrase in which two contradictory terms are used together for emphasis or poetic effect or to arrive at a unique meaning.

Example: deafening silence

Personification–attributing human motives, feelings or characteristics to a non-human being or inanimate object.

Example: That chocolate cake was calling my name.

Pun–a joke using words that are similar in sound but have different meanings. Puns often employ the use of homophones.

Example: A bicycle can not stand up because it is two-tired. (A play on the phrase too tired.)

Simile– a comparison of one thing with something else using the word like or the word as. A simile may compare two things with qualities that do not seem related.

Example: Her shoes were as big as boats.

Synedoche–using a part of something to refer to the whole of something.

Example: He bought a fancy new set of wheels.

Schemes are figures of speech that play with the ordinary patterns of words in order to emphasize or dramatize an idea. Types of figures of speech that are schemes:

Alliteration–words beginning with the same consonant sound placed in close proximity.

Example: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

Anaphora–beginning a succession of sentences or phrases with the same word or words.

Example: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Antithesis–linking contrasting ideas.

Example: Many are called, but few are chosen.

Apostrophe–a phrase addressing a third party, who is not present, in a figurative manner.

Example: Death, where is thy sting?

Assonance–words containing the same vowel sound placed in close proximity.

Example: Why try to lie to the guy?

Climax--a statement in which words and phrases are arranged in ascending order of importance.

Example: This legislation will benefit you, your neighbor, your town and your country.

Epistrophe–the repetition of a word or words at the end of successive sentences or clauses.

Example: Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.

Onomatopoeia— a word that is formed by imitating the sound of the thing or action being described.

Example: buzz

Tautology–a phrase in which an idea is state twice, using different words.

Example: She told me all about her unlucky misfortune.

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