Figure of Speech
Definition and Examples of Figure of Speech
Figure of Speech refers to the use of a word or phrase diverging from its literal meaning. It is the typical attempt by the speaker’s conscious effort to deviate from the strict literal sense of a word thereby creating room for ambiguityOpens in new window in interpretation.
Figure of speech may consist in a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words in it, as in idiomOpens in new window, metaphorOpens in new window, simileOpens in new window, hyperboleOpens in new window or personificationOpens in new window.
Classification of Figures of Speech
There are several figures of speech, all of which may be classified into: scheme and trope.
Schemes are figures of speech that deals with word order and syntax. Generally, it deals with assortment and arrangement of words in an orderly manner.
Tropes are figures of speech that deals with an unexpected twist in the meaning of words. Quintilian defines trope (tropus) as “the artistic alteration of a word or phrase from its proper meaning to another.” Tropes render effectiveness only on single words.
Figures of speech are no doubt robust and interesting subject; there are countless of them that falls under the sub-sets of Scheme and Trope. However, a brief summary of the top 20 figures of speech is provided below, giving you the grace to learn how to employ them to improve your writing skills.
AlliterationOpens in new window is a stylistic device in prosodyOpens in new window, which creates a repetition of initial stressed consonant sound in a series of multiple words within a phraseOpens in new window or poetic verseOpens in new window or line. Below are examples:
AnastropheOpens in new window is a deviation from the correct syntactic order of words, by which the normal English order of the subjectOpens in new window, verbOpens in new window, and objectOpens in new window are put into inverse order of object-subject-verb. For example:
AnaphoraOpens in new window is the repetition of adjacent words at the beginning of the next clauses in a sentence.
AntithesisOpens in new window is a kind of parallelismOpens in new window or a parallel structure where two contrasting ideas are presented in opposition to one another, in words, sentences, or parts of a sentence, which makes the principal idea more striking.
AntonomasiaOpens in new window is the substitution of any epithetOpens in new window or phraseOpens in new window with a proper name and vice versaOpens in new window, which then becomes a way of recognition for the person in question.
CatachresisOpens in new window refers to the use of a borrowed term for something that does not have a name of its own (i.e., as we thus speak of, “legs” of a table or the “foot” of a bed).
EuphemismOpens in new window exclusively consists in the use of a mild, comforting, or evasive expression that takes the place of one considered to be taboo, negative, offensive, or too blunt. For example, substituting terminate, for ‘kill’. Below are a few other examples.
|Spiteful Terms||Euphemistic Substitution|
HyperboleOpens in new window is an excessive exaggerationOpens in new window, an expression that exaggerates, or describes something as greatly magnified or diminished beyond the strict line of truthOpens in new window.
Hyperbole is categorized into two divisions:
IronyOpens in new window is a rhetorical technique by which the surface meaning of what is said is different from the underlying meaning of what is intended.
Irony may be divided into three categories, namely: verbal irony, dramatic irony, and situational irony.
LitotesOpens in new window is a figure of speech that uses understatementOpens in new window to emphasize a point, of which an affirmationOpens in new window is expressed by the negative of the opposite, thereby amounting to a double negativeOpens in new window.
Litotes usually occurs when a speaker attempts to avoid making an affirmative claim directly, but instead denies its opposite. observe the following:
|Litotes Understatement||Actual Expression|
|You are no ordinary girl.||You are ordinary girl.|
|You’re not wrong, that’s not a good idea.||You are wrong, that’s a bad idea.|
|She is not as young as she was.||She is old.|
MetaphorOpens in new window is a figure of speech which consists in the resemblanceOpens in new window of two objects by applying either the name, or some attributeOpens in new window, adjunctOpens in new window, or actionOpens in new window, of the one, directly to the other. Generally, metaphors take two different objects, and equates them as the same, by stating that the first object is the second object. For example:
OxymoronOpens in new window is a collocation of two or more logically contradictory terms in a sentence, that literally correspond with one another in sense, such as:
Paradox is a seemingly self-contradictory statement, but nevertheless appears to be true. A paradox usually has two parallelOpens in new window elements that appear to be logically inconsistent and yet contain a truth. For example, the Socratic paradox:
OnomatopoeiaOpens in new window is a tuneful technique which involves the use of a word, or phraseOpens in new window, the sound of which resembles or naturally imitates the sound of the thing signified. For example: the name of the bird “cuckoo” reproduces the resounding effect of its song; the word “bang” reproduces resounding effect of an explosive sound. See more examples of onomatopoeia hereOpens in new window
PersonificationOpens in new window is a figure of speech by which, in imagination, we attribute human characteristics or intelligence and personalityOpens in new window to inanimate objects or abstract concepts.
Where we personify or attribute human qualities to inanimate objects; trees are called majestic, rivers or breezes are said to be gentle, the spring is said to smile, and winter is termed frowning.
ParonomasiaOpens in new window is a kind of punOpens in new window or wordplay that may be described as the deliberate choice of two (or more) words which resemble one another in their roots or consonantal soundsOpens in new window but differ in meaning.
Paronomasia typically consists in Wordplay featuring homophonesOpens in new window — words with same sound but divergent in spelling and meaning e.g. bare and bear, meat and meet.
PolyptotonOpens in new window is a stylisticOpens in new window device for the repetition of words with same etymonOpens in new window in a sentence, each time with a different inflectionalOpens in new window ending, so as to add to the sentence a rhetorical effect.
In polyptoton, the collocationOpens in new window of the same etymons, often signifies a close conceptual relationship between two referents.
SimileOpens in new window is a figure of speech which consists in comparing or likening one thing to another, either implicitly or explicitly; and is generally introduced using words such as “like”, “as”, “so”, “than”, or a verb such as “resemble”.
ZeugmaOpens in new window is a figure concerned with syntactical construction by which a word stands in the same relation to two other words, but with a different meaning. Observe the example below:
Learn more and observe more examples hereOpens in new window!