Figures of Speech

A figure of speech is a rhetorical device that achieves a special effect by using words distinctively. There are hundreds of them, so here is a sampling of twenty popular ones:

  1. Alliteration
    • Repetition of an initial consonant sound.
    • “Silly snakes slithered silently.”
  2. Anaphora
    • The repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or verses.
    • “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time on the wrong day.”
  3. Antithesis
    • Juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases.
    • “The peaceful have no reason to be violent.”
  4. Apostrophe
    • Directly addressing a non-existent person or an inanimate object as if it were a living being.
    • “Stupid computer! why do you freeze?”
  5. Assonance
    • Similarity in sound between internal vowels in successive words.
    • “How now, brown cow?”
  6. Chiasmus
    • We balance the second half of an expression against the first but with the parts reversed.
    • “I know a lot about nothing, and nothing about a lot.”
  7. Euphemism
    • Replacing an offensively explicit term with an inoffensive term.
    • “Teach your son to go potty himself.”
  8. Hyperbole
    • Using exaggerated terms for emphasis or heightened effect.
    • “I’m starving.”
  9. Irony
    • 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.
    • “The fiery men quelled the raging blaze.”
  10. Lilotes
    • An understatement in which we express an affirmative by negating its opposite.
    • “A million dollars is no small chunk of change.”
  11. Metaphor
    • Implied comparison between two dissimilar things that have something in common.
    • “All the world’s a stage.”
  12. Metonymy
    • A word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated.
    • Rhetorical strategy of describing something indirectly by referring to things around it.
    • “A stuffed suit with a briefcase is a poor excuse for a salesman.”
  13. Onomatopoeia
    • Use of words that sound like the intended meaning or object.
    • “Ding Dong.”; “Bang.”; “Boom.”
  14. Oxymoron
    • Incongruous/contradictory terms appear side by side.
    • “Jumbo Shrimp”
  15. Paradox
    • A statement that appears to contradict itself.
    • “Beginning of the End.”
  16. Personification
    • Inanimate object/abstraction is given human qualities.
    • “Listen to the wind talk in the trees.”
  17. Pun
    • A play on words, or different senses of the same word.
    • Similar sense/sound of different words.
    • “Their there for fun.”
  18. Simile
    1. Using like/as to build a relationship between two dissimilar things.
    2. “Like moths to the light.”
  19. Synecdote
    • Where a part represents the whole.
    • “Learning ABCs.”
  20. Understatement
    1. Down-playing of a situation.
    2. “The tidal wave only wiped out the beach.”

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