Figures Speech

Figures of speech are departures from the direct way of speaking or writing, intended to explain, emphasize, elucidate or embellish what is being said.
They are chiefly used in poetry for the sake of vividness. They are also used in prose especially in public speeches to give added effect or beauty to what is said.
The figures of speech may be divided into five sections:
1. Figures based on Similarity or Likeness. They are :
(1) Simile (2) Metaphor
(3) Personification (4) Apostrophe
2. Figures based on Contrast, Difference or Surprise. They are :
(1) Antithesis (2) Epigram
(3) Paradox (4) Oxymoron
(5) Irony (6) Euphemism
(7) Litotes
3. Figures based on Association or Substitution. They are :
(1) Metonymy (2) Synecdoche
4. Figures based on Construction or Arrangement of words. They are :
(1) Interrogation (2) Exclamation
(3) Climax (4) Anticlimax
(5) Hyperbole (6) Transferred Epithet
(7) Tautology
5. Figures based on Sound. They are :
(1) Pun (2) Alliteration
(3) Onomatopoeia
I. BASED ON SIMILARITIES
(1) Simile
A simile is a figure in which a comparison is made between two objects of different kinds, which are alike at least at one point.
In this figure words like, as or so are always used.
Suresh is as strong as a lion.
Helen was like a lovely rose.
Note: Comparison between two objects of the same kind is not a smile but a simple comparison.
e.g. Smith is as clever as Henry.
Other Examples :
(i) The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold.
(ii) He looks as cheerful as a rose.
(iii) He roared like a lion.
(iv) It stirred the heart as a trumpet.
(v) Curses are like chickens: they come home to roost.
(vi) He walked about as proud as a peacock.
(vii) His eyes were as keen as an eagle’s.
(viii) Thy smile is as the dawn of vernal day.
(ix) That story is as old as the hills.
(2) Metaphor
The metaphor is a figure of speech in which there is a comparison of one thing with -another without the words ‘like or as’. The resemblance is implied. e.g.
(1) Ministers are the pillars of the state.
(2) The fairest rose in all Greece was Helen of Troy.
Other Examples :
(i) Infancy is the dawn of life.
(ii) The wish is the father to the thought.
(iii) And all that mighty heart is lying still.
(iv) The ship ploughs the sea.
(v) A rolling stone gathers no moss.
(vi) The camel is the ship of the desert.
(vii) He was the apple of his eye.
(viii) Those are pearls that were his eyes.
(ix) He is still in the spring of life.
(x) Idleness is the rust of the soul.
(3) Personification
Personification is a figure in which objects without life are spoken of as having the Qualities of a human being.
e.g.
(1) The earth thirsts for rain and when it rains smiles with plenty.
Other Examples :
(i) Let not ambition mock at their useful toil.
(ii) Mute nature moves her worshipper.
(iii) With the leaden foot, time creeps along.
(iv) The hills rejoice and clap their hands.
(v) Anxiety is sitting on his face.
(vi) In the meantime, life steals away.
(vii) The trembling Tiber dived beneath his bed.
(viii) The grey-eyed morn smiles on a flowering night.
(ix) The sun sank into the ocean in all his glory.
(x) Death lays his icy hand on kings.
(4) Apostrophe
The apostrophe is a figure by which the speaker addresses some inanimate thing or some abstract idea as if it were a living person, or some absent person as if it/he were present.
e.g.
(1) O Luxury I thou curst by Heaven’s decree. How ill exchanged are joys like these to thee!
(2) Come back to me, O Helen, in the pride of thy beauty.
Other Examples :
(i) Milton! thou should’st be living at this hour.
(ii) Hail! Smiling Morn! That tips the hills with gold!
(iii) Time, you old Gipsy man, will you not stay?
(iv) Roll on, thou deep and dark blue, Ocean — Roll!
(v) Hail I most divine Melancholy.
(vi) Oh! Judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts.
(vii) O Liberty, what crimes have been committed in thy name!
(viii) O Duty, stern daughter of the voice of God I
(ix) Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
(x) The Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song.
II. BASED ON CONTRAST
(1) Antithesis
In Antithesis, a striking opposition of contrast of words or feelings is made in the same sentence. It is employed to secure emphasis.
e.g.
(1) Man proposes God disposes of.
(2) As is the sunset to an evening sky, so was Helen’s beauty to Troy before its downfall.
Other Examples :
(i) To err .is human, to forgive divine.
(ii) United we stand, divided we fall.
(iii) Well begun is half done.
(iv) A jack of all trades but master of none.
(v) Men are cruel but Man is kind
(vi) In righting a wrong, we sometimes wrong he right.
(vii) Not that I love Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.
(viii) Many are called but few are chosen.
(ix) Let us not do evil that good may abound,
(x) Men must work, and women must weep.
(2) Epigram
An Epigram is a brief pointed saying often ir.noetical form, frequently introducing antithetical ideas which excite surprise and arrest retention; it closely resembles a proverb.
e.g. A favourite has no friend.
Other Examples :
(i) Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
(ii) Failures are pillars of success.
(iii) Revenge proves its own executioner.
(iv) A gift is never little.
(v) Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.
(vi) Familiarity breeds contempt.
(vii) He makes no friend, who never made a foe.
(viii) A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his friends.
(ix) Literature is a very bad crutch, but a very good walking-stick
(x) He was conspicuous by his absence.
(3) Paradox
The paradox is a figure of speech in which a truth is conveyed under the form of an apparent absurdity or contradiction. e.g. The child is the father of the man.
Other Examples :
(i) There is no one so poor as a wealthy miser.
(ii) The greater the truth, the greater the libel.
(iii) Virtue is for the most part only self-love in disguise.
(iv) There’the richest was the poor, and the poorest lived in abundance.
(v) The richest heritage a young man can be born to,
(vi) We are never more in danger than when we think ourselves most secure.
(vii) The more things a man is ashamed of, ir.e more respectable he is.
(viii) He is the best teacher who teaches nothing.
(ix) Whosoever loseth his life shall find it.
(x) The king is dead, long live the King.
(4) Oxymoron
Oxymoron is a figure of which two contradictory qualities are predicated of the same thing at once. An adjective is added to a word of quite a contrary meaning.
e.g. She accepted it as the kind cruelty of the surgeon’s knife.
Other Examples :
(i) He is always idly busy.
(ii) Parting is such sweet sorrow.
(iii) As clear and still she stood, moon-like remotely near.
(iv) He is an honourable villain.
(v) His honour rooted in dishonour stood. And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.
(vi) He is a cheerful pessimist, an unwilling volunteer.
(vii) A careless shoe-string, in whose tie I see a wild civility.
(viii) They were engaged in friendly strife.
(ix) Her mother, too, upon this occasion felt a pleasing distress.
(x) He is all fault, who hath no fault at all.
(5) Irony
The irony is the use of words, the natural meaning of which is just the opposite of what is intended to be expressed. By this figure, therefore, we say one thing but mean just the opposite.
e.g. For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all honourable men.
Other Examples :
(i) A very fine friend you are to forsake me in my trouble.
(ii) He left me to the tender mercies of my enemy.
(iii) He was the cleverest general that.ever lost a battle.
(iv) I fear I wrong the honourable men whose daggers have stabbed Caesar.
(v) I will not call him a villain because it would be unparliamentary to do so.
(vi) That gracious gift — a candid friend.
(vii) He did his friend the greatest possible harm; he spoke in praise of him.
(viii) An imposition is a pleasant holiday recreation.
(ix) He is merry as a tombstone.
(x) What a fine mess of things you have made!
(6) Euphemism
Euphemism is a figure by means of which we speak in pleasing or favourable terms of an unpleasant or bad thing.
e.g. He has gone the way of all flesh.
Other Examples :
(i) That statement is an invention.
(ii) He is a queer person.
(iii) You are telling me a fairy tale.
(iv) You labour under a mistake
(v) She has not the best of tempers.
(vi) He does not keep very exact accounts.
(vii) Discord fell upon the music of his soul.
(viii) Those expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in the family.
(ix) Yet beneath the hallowed soil, the peasant rests him, from his toil.
(x) The honourable member is indulging in a figment of an excited brain.
(7) Litotes
L totes are the use of a negative to express a strong affirmative of the opposite kind.
e.g. (1) I am a citizen of no mean city.
(2) Helen of Troy was not the ugly duckling of her family.
Other Examples :
(i) He was not a little annoyed at his failure.
(ii) I can assure you he is no fool.
(iii) These pens are not at all bad.
(iv) I am not a little surprised at your conduct.
(v) He is no dullard.
(vi) He does not look too pleased.
(vii) The first flight across the Channel was no small achievement.
(viii) Johnson was not an ordinary combatant.
(ix) He was by no means overjoyed at the news.
(x) We had no small difficulty in finding his house
III. BASED ON ASSOCIATION
(1) Metonymy
Metonymy: This means “a change of name” and is so called because in this figure a thing is spoken of not by its own name, but by the name of some conspicuous accompaniment.
e.g. (1) You must address the chair.
(2) The pen is mightier than the sword.
(3) The conquerors smote the city.
(4) Swiftly flies the feathered death.
(5) We have read Milton
(6) He is our pride.
Other Examples :
(i) The school is coming out.
(ii) The kettle boils.
(iii) Red-tape often hinders progress.
(iv) This is my son, my own Telemachus, to whom I leave the sceptre and the isle
(v) Forthwith he drank the fatal cup.
(vi) Do not run in the sun.
(vii) The House of Commons was in an uproar.
(viii) On the American side, platform and pulpit spotted fire.
(ix) He was playing to the gallery.
(x) He traced his career from the counting-house to the council chamber.
(xi) The glories of our blood and state are shadows.
(xii) Altar, sword and pen, Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower, Have forfeited their ancient English dower.
(2) Synecdoche
Synecdoche: or “the understanding of one thing by means of another”. By this figure, one noun is changed for another of a similar meaning.
e.g. (1) All hands to the pump.
(2) Preach the Gospel to every creature.
(3) A Daniel comes to judgement.
(4) There is a mixture of the tiger and the ape – in the character of a Frenchman.
(5) All the rank and fashion came out to see the sight
(6) The marble speaks.
Other Examples :
(i) He lived twenty summers.
(ii) I am out of humanity’s reach.
(iii) He was put in irons.
(iv) The mother in her was moved by my appeal.
(v) Many hands made light work.
(vi) My bed is under the stars.
(vii) He has many mouths to feed.
(viii) He plunged the steel into his bosom.
(ix) He is the Caesar of this age.
(x) Happy is the home, where contentment lies in peace.
IV. BASED ON CONSTRUCTION
(1) Interrogation
Interrogation is a statement thrown into the form of a question for rhetorical effect. No answer is expected to such a question.
e.g. (1) Can Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
(2) Has not Helen of Troy is a beautiful woman?
Other Examples :
(i) Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour?
(ii) Who is here so vile that will not love his country?
(iii) Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings.
(iv) Breathes there the man with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own my native land?
(v) Who is here so base that would be a bondman?
(vi) Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?
(vii) Can two walk together except they are agreed?
(viii) Can storied urn or animated bust Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
(ix) He that formed the eye, shall He not see?
(x) Who would be so wicked as to slay his own father?
(2) Exclamation
The exclamation is a figure in which the exclamatory form is used to draw greater attention to a point than a mere bold statement of it could do.
e.g. (1) What a piece of work is a man!
(2) How beautiful Helen of Troy was!
Other Examples :
(i) O what a fall is this, my countrymen!
(ii) What a glorious sunset!
(iii) How bravely he met his death!
(iv) Oh that those lips bad language!
(v) How sweet the moonlight sleeps on this bank!
(vi) O that I had wings like a dove!
(vii) How sweet the merry linnet’s tune. How blithe the blackbird’s lay!
(viii) O that the desert was my dwelling place!
(ix) O that I was young again!
(x) O what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise deceiving!
(3) Climax
The climax is a figure in which the sense rises by successive steps to what is more and more important and impressive.
e.g. (1) I came, I saw. I conquered
(2) Helen was a lovely girl, the fa rest maid in Greece, the most beauteous maiden in the whole world.
Other Examples :
(i) I smile, I laugh, I roar.
(ii) Great, wide, beautiful world.
(iii) Robber, murderer, patricide.
(iv) The guns again rise to the last fury, to a rage, a lust
(v) Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime.
(vi) There mark what ills the scholar’s life assail, toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail.
(vii) He begs he lies, he steals, he kills for gold.
(viii) To gossip is a fault; to libel, a crime; to slander a sin.
(ix) That consolation, that joy, that triumph was afforded to him.
(x) At first, he walked, then he ran. and at last, he simply flew.
(4) Anti-Climax or Bathos
This is the opposite to Climax and signifies a ludicrous descent from the higher to the lower.
e.g. (1) The soldier fights for glory and a shilling a day.
(2) For thy sake, dear Helen, ! would do anything but die!
Other Examples :
(i) A hero perishes, or a sparrow fall.
(ii) I die, I faint, I fail.
(iii) The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.
(iv) A man so various, that he seemed to be not one, but all mankind’s epitome Who in the course of one revolving moon was a lawyer, statesman, fiddler and buffoon.
(v) He read me a lecture on honesty, gave me his blessing — and overcharged in six pence in the bill.
(vi) Here, thou great Anna! Whom three realms obey. Dost sometimes counsel take— and sometimes tea.
(vii) On the same day, he lost his wife, his dog, and a three 1 penny bit.
(viii) He was remarkable for commanding intelligence, perfect virtue, and above all a snub nose.
(ix) He is a great philosopher, an astute demagogue and a buffoon.
(x) And thou, Dalhousie, the great god of war, Lieutenant Colonel to the Earl of Mar.
(5) Hyperbole
Hyperbole is a greatly exaggerated statement, used mainly for effect, but not intended to be taken literally.
e.g. (1) He would draw the stage with tears.
(2) For one smile from Helen, I would barter ten thousand years of anguish,
Other Examples :
(i) It is an age since we met.
(ii) I’ve had thousands of teeth taken out.
(iii) I was bored to death by his ceaseless chatter
(iv) He has tons and tons of money.
(v) All India was shocked at the news.
(vi) He is stronger than a lion.
(vii) She wept oceans of tears.
(viii) The sea rose mountain high.
(ix) The sky shrank upward with unusual dread. And trembling Tiber dived beneath h s bed.
(x) All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.
(6) Transferred Epithet
In this figure, an epithet is transferred from a word to which it properly belongs to some other word closely connected with it.
e.g. He passed a sleepless night!
Other Examples :
(i) He tossed from side to side on his restless pillow.
(ii) The ploughman homeward plods his weary way.
(iii) A lackey presented an obsequious cup of coffee.
(iv) He stood upon the dizzy cliff.
(v) Is there no play To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
(vi) She would with a greedy ear devour Othello’s discourse.
(vii) To their untravelled thought, their village was their world.
(viii) The prisoner was placed in the condemned cell.
(ix) He leaves a weary waste behind.
(x) We had a pleasant time there.
(7) Tautology
Tautology is the use of unnecessary words to express the same idea.
e.g. The one sole survivor of the wreck was a Norwegian.
Other examples :
(i) He dwelt in lonely isolation,
(ii) She may again regain her property.
(iii) He entered into a joint partnership with Mr X.
(iv) I rejoiced at the happy sight.
(v) Let us join it together.
(vi) He continued to remain my friend.
(vii) They returned back again to the same city from whence they came forth.
(viii) She sighed a sigh and prayed a prayer
(ix) His voice has a tonne of-monotony and sameness.
(x) That is quite evident and manifest.
V. BASED ON SOUND
(1) A Pun
A Pun is a play upon words
e.g. (1) Not on thy sole, on thy soul, harsh Jew.
(2) Nell of Troy was the death knell of Troy.
Other Examples :
(i) He is too much of a bear, to bear this calmly.
(ii) Is life worth living? That depends upon the liver.
(iii) An ambassador is an honest man who lies abroad for the good of his country.
(iv) Well, Mr Shepherd, where is your flock?
(v) Oh, I how that name befits my composition. Old indeed, and gaunt in being old.
(vi) Can a leopard change its spots? Yes, when I go from one spot to another.
(vii) A boy who eats dates makes good use of his time.
(viii) He kept his spirits up by pouring spirits down
(ix) It shall be called Bottom’s Dream, because it hath no bottom.
(2) Alliteration
This consists in the repetition of the same letter o syllable at the beginning of two or more words.
e.g. (1) Full fathom five thy father lies.
(2) The loveliest lady in the alien land (Trey) was Helen.
Other Examples :
(i) The snake slept under a spray.
(ii) And waves of shadow went over the wheat.
(iii) A sweet, sad smile then spread across her face.
(iv) And the cowslip and Bluebell are bent by the bee.
(v) Extensive harvests hand the heavy head.
(vi) Let lovely lilacs line Lee’s
(vii) R ruthless King!
(viii) Fair fowls have feathers fair.
(ix) Round and round the rugged rock, the ragged rascals ran
(x) That dry drudgery at the desk’s dead wood.
(3) Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia is the employment of words that imitate the sound or echo the sense.
e.g. The bull bellowed.
Other Examples :
(i) The thunder roared and the lightning crashed.
(ii) He flumped down behind
(iii) The rattle of the hall upon the root awoke me.
(iv) By zig-zag paths and juts of pointed rock.
(v) A fleet of planes whirred above our heads.
(vi) And rouse him like a rattling peal of thunder.
(vii) The curfew tolls the knell of parting day.
(viii) Dry clashed his harness in the icy caves.
(ix) Brushing with hasty steps the dew away.
(x) Now and again came the tong-ting-tong of a sheep-bell.

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