A figure of speech is a word or phrase using figurative language—language that has other meaning than its normal definition. In other words, figures of speeches rely on implied or suggested meaning, rather than a dictionary definition.
Types of Figures of Speech
Below are thirteen (13) out of the numerous figures of speech in English Language.
This type of figure of speech is constructed by attributing certain human characteristics to otherwise inanimate objects. For example, you may have often heard people saying that the “wind is howling.” Look at these two popular examples to get a better idea-
- Opportunity knocked at his/her door.
- Time flies when you’re having fun.
A simile is a figure of speech in which two fundamentally unlike things are explicitly compared, usually in a phrase introduced by like or as, as these quotes demonstrate.
Donita K. Paul, “Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball,” 2010
” ‘What’s a simile?’ asked Sandy. She looked to Cora for an answer.
” ‘When you compare something to something else to get a better picture of it in your head. The clouds look like cotton balls. The edge of the snow shovel is sharp like a knife.’ “
This type of figure of speech is generally used by talking about two very different kinds of things that have a common link. Hence, the action, feature, or effect of the unrelated thing can be applied to that of the related thing, and imply a new meaning. For example-
- She is the apple of my eye.
- The Sun is a creature of habit.
These are one of the most common figures of speech in English, and you must have used them at least once, even if you are not a native English language speaker. These phrases are meant to emphasize the importance of something by using overexaggerated phrases. Two examples of hyperbole figures of speech are-
- I have told you a million times not to touch my stuff!
- He has a pea-sized brain.
An oxymoron is when you use two words together that have contradictory meanings. Some common examples include small crowd, definitely possible, old news, little giant, and so on.
6. Irony / Sarcasm
Irony is when a word or phrase’s literal meaning is the opposite of its figurative meaning. Many times (but not always), irony is expressed with sarcasm (see Related Terms). For example, maybe you eat a really bad cookie, and then say “Wow, that was the best cookie I ever had”—of course, what you really mean is that it’s the worst cookie you ever had, but being ironic actually emphasizes just how bad it was!
These are rather simple yet unique figures of speech. Onomatopoeiae are words or phrases that are similar to the sounds they produce. While they may be an informal and childish way of speaking, these figures of speech can often come in handy when one is trying to be illustrious. Two popular examples are-
- “Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices&” (From Shakespeare’s “Tempest”)
- “Tis some visitor&tapping at my chamber door Only this and nothing more.” (From Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”
Anaphora is when a word is repeated multiple times within a phrase. Here are some examples of anaphora in use.
- Every morning, every afternoon and every evening I walk by the lake.
- He had one apple, one banana and one pear.
- My life is happy, my life is simple, my life is complete.
Metonymy is when a phrase is replaced with another which has a similar meaning, used to describe something in an indirect manner. Here are some examples of metonymy in use.
- The pen is more mighty than the sword.
- I remain loyal to the crown.
- My husband is considered a silver fox.
A pun is a play on words, it uses a word to give a different sense to the sentence and add a double meaning. Here are some examples of puns in use.
- The two guitarists got on well as they were always in a chord.
- I spend a lot of time doing DIY so I know the drill.
- An egg for breakfast is not easy to beat.
It is the use of two striking opposite words in a sentence. It is often contradictory.
- Less is more.
- Shame is pride.
- “Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” (Ghandi)
Synecdoche is the using of a part to illustrate the whole. It can be said to be the understanding of one thing by means of another.
- All hands on deck.
- Heads turned when she walked in.
- All eyes was on him.
Alliteration is a sentence that consists of a series of words that have the same consonant sound at the beginning. Some popular examples of alliteration in a sentence include:
- She sells sea shells on the sea shore
- A good cook could cook as much cookies as a good cook who could cook cookies