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Figures of Speech - Examples

The A to Z of Figures of Speech With Explanations and Examples

Learn how to improve your writing and oratory skills by using various figures of speech, which can be understood with the help of the following examples.
Puja Lalwani
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
We can all put words together and come up with sentences to express ourselves. But sometimes, it's nice to enhance the language a little, without having to say everything literally. The transformation from ordinary speech to extraordinary speech, can be done with the use of a variety of figures of speech. They are defined as literary devices used to enhance the quality of language, written or spoken. How can you employ these to improve your writing and oratory skills? With the help of the following examples.
Examples of Figures of Speech

Figures of speech provoke a thought process and bring depth to the language. To be able to use them well is an art, which can be mastered over time. The more you read, the more you will be able to understand. By going through the following examples, you too can master the art of using them appropriately.

Alliteration refers to the repetition of a consonant sound, at least three times in a sentence. It is often used as a figure of speech in poetry, and even advertisements use alliteration in their tag lines to make the ads more memorable. Some examples of alliteration are:
  • Don't delay dawns disarming display. Dusk demands daylight.
    - Paul Mccan
  • Sara's seven sisters slept soundly in sand.

Anastrophe the inversion of the normal order of speech in a particular sentence. It can also be said that the language is interrupted and speech takes a sudden turn. This is used for the purpose of emphasis. Examples of anastrophe are:
  • Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man.
    - Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart
  • Why should their liberty than ours be more?
    - Adriana, Comedy of Errors, William Shakespeare

Anaphora refers to a repetition of one particular word purposely, at the start of consecutive sentences or paragraphs. This is again in order to emphasize a point. Examples of anaphora are:
  • I'm not afraid to die. I'm not afraid to live. I'm not afraid to fail. I'm not afraid to succeed. I'm not afraid to fall in love. I'm not afraid to be alone. I'm just afraid I might have to stop talking about myself for five minutes.
    - Kinky Friedman, When the Cat's Away
  • Water, water, every where,
    And all the boards did shrink ;
    Water, water, every where,
    Nor any drop to drink.
    - Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Antithesis is defined as an opposition or contradiction between two concepts in a statement. For example:
  • It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry, The sun so hot, I froze to death...
    - Oh Susanna (Song)
  • You're easy on the eyes, hard on the heart...
    - Terri Clark (Song)

Antonomasia refers to the substitution of a proper name with a phrase, which then becomes a way of recognition for the person in question. This can be explained with the help of the following examples:
  • The King of Pop - Michael Jackson
  • The Bard - William Shakespeare

A euphemism is the use of neutral language to remark something that may be offensive to the receiver. Euphemism is often used by people who are diplomatic, and who wish to be politically correct. Some examples of this figure of speech are:
  • We have to let you go. Read: You're fired.
  • You're well fed. Read: You're fat.

A hyperbole is a figure of speech used for the purpose of exaggeration. It mainly forms the basis of several jokes, is used as a way of insults, or could simply be used to dramatize a situation, where in reality, the situation may not be that bad. This can be understood with the help of these hyperbole examples:
  • I'm so busy trying to accomplish ten million things at once.
  • Your dog is so ugly, we had to pay the fleas to live on him.

An idiom is a figure of speech that is used to help express a situation with ease, but by using expressions that are usually completely unrelated to the situation in question. These examples will help you understand idioms:
  • It's no good crying over spilt milk.
    - This is an idiom that simply means there is no use regretting about unfortunate events that have passed and cannot be changed.
  • It takes two to tango.
    - This idiom simply means that it takes more than one person to mess up a situation, i.e. it is not only always one person's fault.

Irony refers to the use of certain words that actually intend to convey the opposite. Irony forms the basis of sarcasm, and of humor. It is also a way of expressing the ugly truth in a slightly gentle manner. Some examples are:
  • Bill Gates winning a computer.
    - Situational Irony (He is the owner of the world's largest software company.)
  • Having a fight with your best friend just before your birthday, and commenting -"Great, this is just what I needed".
    - Verbal Irony (It is probably the worst thing that could happen before your birthday.)
  • In Romeo and Juliet, when Juliet is drugged, Romeo assumes her to be dead, and kills himself. Upon waking up Juliet finds him dead, and kills herself.
    - Dramatic Irony (Mainly based on miscommunication and misunderstanding.)

This figure of speech refers to the use of understatement, to affirm a particular situation or event with the use of a negative opposite. Examples include:
  • He was not unfamiliar with the work of Shakespeare.
  • Einstein is not a bad mathematician.

Used for the purpose of comparison, a metaphor is a figure of speech that implies the meaning of an object with its reference to another completely unrelated object. For instance:
  • The sofa is fertile soil for a couch potato.
  • But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.
    - William Sharp, The Lonely Hunter

Metonymy refers to the use of a phrase regarding an associated concept, in order to describe the actual concept. Some metonymy examples are:
  • The editorial page has always believed...
    - This refers to the belief of the editors who write the editorial page.
  • He writes a fine hand.
    - It means he has good handwriting.

An oxymoron uses a contradictory adjective to define an object, situation or event. Oxymoron examples are:
  • Loners' club
  • A stripper's dressing room

While an oxymoron is a contradictory phrase, a paradox is a contradictory statement which may appear false, but is in fact true. For example:
  • War is peace.
    Freedom is slavery.
    Ignorance is strength.
    - George Orwell, 1984
  • Deep down, you're really shallow.

Such words imitate the sounds made by certain objects or actions. Some examples of onomatopoeia are:
  • The clatter of utensils.
  • The flutter of birds.

This figure of speech is used by people who do not wish to speak on a subject, but still manage to disclose it. Some examples are:
  • It would be unseemly for me to dwell on Senator Kennedy's drinking problem, and too many have already sensationalized his womanizing...
  • I will not dwell on the senator's shady history with the criminal underworld, or on her alcoholic son... such issues should not be brought up in a reasoned debate.

This refers to the art of bringing to life an inanimate object, trait, or action, by associating it with a human quality. Examples of personification are:
  • The picture in that magazine screamed for attention.
  • The carved pumpkin smiled at me.

Puns refer to the deliberate substitution of similar sounding words to create a humorous effect. For example:
  • I bet the butcher the other day that he couldn't reach the meat that was on the top shelf. He refused to take the bet, saying that the steaks were too high.
  • Santa's helpers are subordinate Clauses.

A simile is similar to a metaphor. However, here, a reference between two concepts is made by using the terms 'like' or 'as'. Some simile examples are:
  • Cause she looks like a flower but she stings like a bee
    Like every girl in history.
    - Ricky Martin (She Bangs)
  • George felt as worn out as an old joke that was never very funny in the first place.

This figure of speech refers to the use of only one word to describe two actions or events. The word however, logically applies only to one of the actions. For instance:
  • She opened the door and her heart to the orphan.
  • She lowered her standards by raising her glass, her courage, her eyes and his hopes.

These were just a few examples of figures of speech. While there are several more, these are good to start off with. When effectively employed, these examples can bring a whole new meaning to your writing and oratory skills. Use them well!