Figure of Speech: Definition, types, and examples

Figure of Speech: Definition, types, and examples

Figures of speech are ways of using words that go beyond their literal meanings to create more interesting or effective expressions. They can add color, emotion, and emphasis to language, and can help to make writing and speech more vivid and engaging. Some figures of speech are very common and are often used without us even realizing it, while others are more specific and may be used for a particular effect or in a particular context. Some figures of speech, such as metaphor and simile, are used to make comparisons and help us to understand abstract concepts in more concrete terms. Others, such as hyperbole and irony, are used to create emphasis or to convey a meaning that is opposite to the literal meaning of the words. Still others, such as alliteration and onomatopoeia, are used to create a particular sound or rhythm in language. Overall, figures of speech are an important tool in the writer or speaker’s toolkit and can help to make the language more expressive and engaging. 

A figure of speech is a diversion from the usual utilization of words to enhance their impact. Due to its rhetorical effect, it is sometimes referred to as a rhetorical figure. It alters a statement’s actual essence or usual application to get the desired impact. In both written and spoken communication, it typically emphasizes, exaggerates, or enhances language.  Even newspapers, cartoons, billboards, slogans, and other media feature it. A figure of speech can quickly draw attention and attract people to the use. It’s intended to draw comparisons and provide drama when writing or speaking. It deepens the meaning of the text and makes the audience speculate, and gives the author’s ideas more vitality. The use of figurative language reveals the author’s objective and motivation for utilizing certain words. Poetry is commonly related to figurative language in writing. A figure of speech is a creative way to utilize language to produce a certain impact. Metaphors, similes, and metonymy are types of figures of speech that are used often in spoken language. Many, like antithesis, or circumlocution, require more writing practice to use well. 

A figure of Speech Types

There are many different types of figures of speech, but some common ones include;

  1. Alliteration: the repetition of the same sounds at the beginning of words, as in “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
  2. Simile: a comparison of two things using “like” or “as,” as in “She was as graceful as a swan.”
  3. Metaphor: a comparison of two things without using “like” or “as,” as in “He was a tiger on the football field.”
  4. Hyperbole: exaggeration for emphasis or effect, as in “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
  5. Irony: when something is said to mean the opposite of what it literally means, as in “I’m so glad it’s raining on my wedding day.”
  6. Personification: giving human characteristics to non-human things, as in “The wind was howling with anger.”
  7. Onomatopoeia: words that imitate the sound they describe, such as “buzz,” “hiss,” and “meow.”
  8. Allusion: a reference to something from literature, history, or popular culture, as in “He’s a real Romeo.”
  9. Oxymoron: a combination of two words that seem to contradict each other, such as “jumbo shrimp” or “deafening silence.”
  10. Pun: a play on words, often involving a word with multiple meanings or similar-sounding words, as in “Why was the math book sad? Because it had too many problems.”
  11. Idiom: a phrase or expression that has a meaning different from its literal words, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs.”
  12. Cliché: a phrase or expression that has been used so often that it has lost its originality or impact, such as “love is blind” or “the early bird gets the worm.”
  13. Antithesis: the juxtaposition of two contrasting ideas, as in “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
  14. Synecdoche: using a part to represent the whole, as in “All hands on deck” to mean “everyone on the ship.”
  15. Euphemism: using a mild or indirect word or phrase in place of a more direct or blunt one, as in “passed away” instead of “died.”
  16. Chiasmus: a figure of speech in which the order of words in the second half of a sentence is the reverse of the order in the first half, as in “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
  17. Litotes: a figure of speech in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its opposite, as in “It’s not a bad book” to mean “It’s a good book.”
  18. Antanaclasis: repeating a word or phrase, but with a different meaning each time, as in “I cried tears of joy and tears of sorrow.”
  19. Paradox: a statement that seems contradictory or absurd but may actually be true, as in “Less is more.”
  20. Rhetorical question: a question that is asked for effect, without expecting an answer, as in “How can anyone be so cruel?”

How are figures of speech used in writing?

Figures of speech are commonly used in writing to add emphasis, clarity, or appeal to a piece of writing. They can help to make writing more vivid and engaging by creating images, comparisons, or sounds that capture the reader’s attention and imagination. For example, a writer might use a metaphor to compare two things to help the reader understand a complex idea or concept. They might use a simile to create a vivid image or to draw attention to a particular quality or feature. They might use alliteration to create a sense of rhythm or flow in their writing or to draw attention to a specific word or phrase. Figures of speech can also be used to create a particular tone or mood in writing, such as using irony to create humor or using personification to create a sense of empathy or emotional connection. Overall, figures of speech are an important tool for writers and can help to make their writing more effective and engaging.