Top 10 Figures of Speech that you should know

A figure of speech is a deviation from ordinary use of words, in order to increase their effect. Basically, it is a figurative language that may consist of a single word or a phrase. It may be a simile, metaphor or personification to covey the meaning other than the literal meaning.

This post only cover major literary techniques. You can read the other most important figures of speech here.

01. Simile

In a simile, a direct comparison is made between two objects to compare them. It is usually introduced by words such as: like, as or so. By comparing something to something the reader can understand about the subject matter better and it adds beauty to the work of art. 

Ex:He fought like a lion - it shows the intensity of his fighting and his quality of fighting.

02. Metaphor

Metaphor is an implied or indirect comparison. It implies that two things are alike but does not state this directly using as or like. Using metaphor, the quality of something is attributed to something to make the reader understand the subject matter better. 

Ex: He is a lion in the battlefield - Here the person is directly addressed as a lion. It does not say he is a lion but the reader understands his quality of bravery.

03. Personification

In personification, inanimate objects are given human qualities or they are considered as lively things. By giving life to inanimate things writers can bridge connection with humans and objects in order to understand them better. It can evoke feelings too.

Ex: Son of old Moon –mountains African! (to the Nile by John Keats) – Here the river Nile is addressed as son. By making it human, the poet generates the ability to speak with it.

04. Oxymoron

Usage of two opposite words or phrases intentionally to create an effect is called oxymoron. The complication is made to make something clearer to the reader by making the reader think.

Ex: He is unkindly kind. – Here unkind and kind are opposite words but it shows that he is very kind. It is like the word very is not enough to describe the kindness in him. 

05. Paradox

Paradox is like an extended version of Oxymoron. Here a statement which is seemingly absurd or self-contradictory is used to create an effect. When it is read first, the idea seems to be incorrect but if think deeply, the idea given has some sense.

Ex: the child is the father of man – it seemingly absurd and false but if think deeply, the foundation of a man lies in childhood which creates a sense.

06. Hyperbole

Hyperbole is greatly exaggerated statement used for the sake of effect. Exaggeration is helpful to make something understand quickly and more clearly.

Ex: a millions of eyes were gazing upon me – that number may not be correct but it shows the effect of beholders on the speaker. Reader can feel the pressure that the speaker underwent.

07. Onomatopoeia

The use of words in such a way that sound suggests the sense. That means the sound of something is used to generate an idea. The sound intensifies the meaning and the effect to make the idea clearer and appealing to senses.

Ex: The cannon boomed – ‘boom’ is a sound. It creates a cinematic effect which reader hear and feel. Reader feels that he sees and hear the cannon fire with a huge sound.

08. Alliteration

In alliteration same consonant sound appears at the beginning of two or more words. They are used in close succession. Alliteration focuses reader’s attention on particular section of the text. It creates rhythm and mood as well as it can have particular meanings. For example, repetition of ‘s’ sound often suggests a snake-like quality, implying slyness and danger.

Ex: He clasps the crag with crooked hands. – repetition of ‘k’ sound creates a harsh sound implying the harshness of the life or environment.

09. Assonance

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds. Its function is quite similar to alliteration. Further, it is a tool to enhance a musical effect in the text by using it for creating internal rhyme, which enhances the pleasure of reading.

Ex: The splendor falls on castle walls – repetition of ‘oh’ sound creates musical and the sound has a ‘wow’ effect generating a glamorous effect.

10. Irony

In irony the intended meaning of the words is the opposite of the actual meaning of the words used or in some way contradicting. Authors use irony to make the audience stop and think about what has just been said or to emphasize a central idea. Audience’s role in realizing the difference between what is said and what is normal or expected is essential to the successful use of irony. 

Ex: How simple person you are! – Here the actual person is not a simple person at all. Here the reader stops and think ‘is he actually simple?’ then the reader or listener understands this is told in opposite sense. It sometimes creates humor too.  

Figures of speech are the stylistic devices in writing. You need the knowledge of them to produce a nice piece of writing as well as in exams, you need that to unwrap the meaning of the given texts, speech or unseen poetry.

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