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A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that intentionally deviates from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetorical effect.[1] Figures of speech are traditionally classified into schemes, which vary the ordinary sequence of words, and tropes, where words carry a meaning other than what they ordinarily signify.


Scholars of classical Western rhetoric have divided figures of speech into two main categories: schemes and tropes. Schemes (from the Greek schēma, 'form or shape') are figures of speech that change the ordinary or expected pattern of words. For example, the phrase, "John, my best friend" uses the scheme known as apposition. Tropes (from Greek trepein, 'to turn') change the general meaning of words. An example of a trope is irony, which is the use of words to convey the opposite of their usual meaning ("For Brutus is an honorable man; / So are they all, all honorable men").

During the Renaissance, scholars meticulously enumerated and classified figures of speech. Henry Peacham, for example, in his The Garden of Eloquence (1577), enumerated 184 different figures of speech. Professor Robert DiYanni, in his book Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama and the Essay[7] wrote: "Rhetoricians have catalogued more than 250 different figures of speech, expressions or ways of using words in a nonliteral sense."

For simplicity, this article divides the figures between schemes and tropes, but does not further sub-classify them (e.g., "Figures of Disorder"). Within each category, words are listed alphabetically. Most entries link to a page that provides greater detail and relevant examples, but a short definition is placed here for convenience. Some of those listed may be considered rhetorical devices, which are similar in many ways.

Since most figures of speech are used widely in common parlance, native English language speakers are quite familiar with them. However, if you are not a native English speaker, or if you are one and wish to learn more about your language, then you have come to the right place!

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-

These types of phrases are figures of speech that have a similar sounding consonant (non-vowel letters) at the beginning of each word. You can identify them by checking for these similarities in two to three consecutive words. Some alliteration figure of speech examples are-

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-

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-

Euphemisms are figures of speech that are used to replace stronger and harsher phrases. These are generally milder or more acceptable terms that you can use in your conversations to sound more polite and sometimes, politically correct. For example-

Figures of speech sometimes also express sarcasm. You can use these phrases to convey a certain meaning by stating the opposite of it. In common English parlance, such ironic statements or phrases are easily understood. However, here are two examples that will make it clearer-

Puns are also one of the most common figures of speech that you can use in everyday life. They make you sound witty and even comical in some cases, and can surely be a conversation starter. A couple of examples of pun figures of speech are-

Apostrophe figures of speech are situations (usually in literary worlds), when a character, author, or speaker addresses an inanimate object or even a person that does not really exist in the given scenario. While you may not find it in common usage, it is definitely an interesting figure of speech to learn about. Here are two examples-

An understatement is also a type of figure of speech. It is aimed at inciting a less reactive response to a particular statement. These can really come in handy during your day-to-day English conversations. For example-

Much like synonyms, these figures of speech refer to words that are used in place of other words (nouns, to be specific). These replacement words are different from the word replaced but share a common connection. Here are two metonymy figure of speech examples-

Not to be confused with ironies and paradoxes, this figure of speech is used to connect two opposite ideas simultaneously. This means that, in an oxymoron figure of speech, two contrasting ideas are used within a single sentence to have a jocular effect. For example-

Anticlimax is a figure of speech in which ideas and events gradually descend in order of importance. It is a rhetorical device that entails abrupt tone changes while moving from significant ideas to unimportant ones.

A figure of speech is a word or phrase that possesses a separate meaning from its literal definition. It can be a metaphor or simile designed to make a comparison. It can be the repetition of alliteration or the exaggeration of hyperbole to provide a dramatic effect. There are a wealth of these literary tools in the English language.

Hopefully, this sampling of figures of speech will offer a nice springboard for you to sprinkle a variety of stylistic and rhetorical devices into your writing. The goal is to be able to express yourself in a more creative, interesting, and eye-catching manner. Use these resources to give your writing that extra oomph:

All of us use different figures of speech in our everyday life, no matter which language we speak. Being familiar with different types of figures of speech can not only increase your vocabulary in a particular language but also help you in your career. This is especially for those who want to pursue a career in translation, poetry or writing. Also, having a solid idea of the different figures of speech can come in handy for a wide range of exams, including both language proficiency exams for studying abroad, and different competitive exams for work or study. Want to familiarise yourself with this? Take a look at this blog for detailed information on the popular types of figures of speech.

It is an integral part of any language, which is used extensively not only in our day-to-day speech but also in written texts and oral literature. These are words or phrases used in a distinctive way to produce a rhetorical effect.

Figures of Speech are developed and expressed through a variety of different rhetorical techniques. All of us use different figures of speech in our daily conversations, both deliberately and subconsciously.

This is a figure of speech that is used to express a sound. To be more precise, it involves the use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the action or object referred to i.e. hiss, clap etc. Some examples of onomatopoeia include:

A hyperbole is a figure of speech that consists of an exaggeration. It is the usage of exaggerated terms in order to emphasise or heighten the effect of something. Some examples of using hyperboles in a sentence include:

Puns are among the most frequently used figures of speech in daily conversation. They may be great conversation starters since they make you sound clever and occasionally even humorous. Here are a few instances of puns in speech:

This figure of speech, which should not be confused with ironies and paradoxes, links two opposing ideas at once. This indicates that two opposing concepts are utilised inside a single sentence to create levity in an oxymoron figure of speech. For instance,

Metonymy is a figure of speech when one term or phrase is used in place of another with which it is closely related. It is also a rhetorical technique used to describe something indirectly by making references to objects around. Here are few instances of Metonym:

Numerous figures of speech that are used as literary devices may be seen in works of literature. These add meaning to literature and showcase the power and beauty of figurative language. Here are some examples in well-known literary works:

In this passage, Bradbury utilizes metaphor as a figure of speech to compare a book to a loaded gun. This is an effective literary device for this novel because, in the story, books are considered weapons of free thought and possession of them is illegal. Of course, Bradbury is only stating that a book is a loaded gun as a means of figurative, not the literal meaning. This metaphor is particularly powerful because the comparison is so unlikely; books are generally not considered to be dangerous weapons. However, the comparison does have a level of logic in the context of the story in which the pursuit of knowledge is weaponized and criminalized.

Hope you found this blog on some popular figures of speech interesting and informative. Being familiar with these figures of speech can help you tremendously in preparing for various competitive exams. Need help in your preparation for IELTS, TOEFL or GMAT? Leverage Live offers live interactive classes and doubt-clarification sessions by top certified experts who can help you ace your test with flying colours. Reach out to us today!Call us immediately at 1800 57 2000 for a free 30-minute counselling session.

The figures first acquired their names from the Greeks and Romans who catalogued them. Although attempts have been made to anglicize or update the figures' names, this sometimes proves to confuse things, even though the Greek and Latin terms are odd to modern ears. Pronunciation guides and etymologies have been provided to clarify the Greek terms, in particular. And because there are so many synonyms or close synonyms among the figures, each entry contains equivalent and comparative terms from Greek, Latin, and English. To view the terms from just one of these languages, see viewing options. 041b061a72


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