Figures of Speech

13 minute read
figures of speech

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.

What are 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.

To say it in very simple terms, it is a phrase whose actual meaning is different from its literal meaning.

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.

Importance of Figures of Speech

It enhances your writing and content. For example, metaphors add important details that make the writing more relatable to the readers. Idioms help to express complex ideas in a short space. It makes the content presentable and more enjoyable to the writers. Most of the time, you may use these words as a sarcastic response or just to demonstrate your command of the language.

Must Read: Best Novels for Students

Figures of Speech List

Source: Vocabulary TV

There is a wide range of different types of figures of speech that are used in our daily communication. Let us take a look at some of the most popular ones that are used extensively:


Personification attributes human nature or human qualities to abstract or inanimate objects. For example, we often use the phrases like the howling wind, dancing leaves, time flies etc. Some examples of personification in a sentence are:

  • The opportunity knocked at his door
  • The plants in her house silently begged to be watered
  • Lightning danced across the sky
  • The wind howled in the night.


A metaphor is used for implying a comparison between two things that have something in common but are in general different from each other. Some examples of the usage of metaphors in a sentence is as follows:

  • It is raining cats and dogs
  • He is the star of our class
  • Life is a highway.
  • Her eyes were diamonds.


A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things that are different from each other but have similar qualities. These are generally formed through the usage of the words ‘as’ or ‘like’. Some examples of similes in a sentence include:

  • He is as brave as a lion
  • Her expression was as cold as ice
  • Swim like a fish
  • As light as a feather


Alliteration is a sentence that consists of a series of words that have the same consonant sound at the beginning. Some popular examples of alliteration in a sentence include:

  • She sells sea shells on the sea shore
  • A good cook could cook as much cookies as a good cook who could cook cookies
  • All Adam ate in August was apples and almonds
  • Barry bought a book to bring to the backyard barbecue


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:

  • The buzzing bee flew over my head
  • The stone hit the water with a splash
  • The boulder hit the ground with a flump.
  • Leaves rustle in the wind and are whipped into the air.


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:

  • I have told you a million times to not touch my stuff!
  • She has got a pea-sized brain
  • I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.
  • She’s as old as the hills.


Euphemism is the usage of a mild word in substitution of something that is more explicit or harsh when referring to something unfavourable or unpleasant. Some examples of its usage include:

  • This mall has good facilities for differently-abled people
  • He passed away in his sleep
  • Passed away” instead of “died”
  • “Let go” instead of “fired”


Irony or sarcasm is a figure of speech in which the usage of words conveys the opposite of their literal meaning. These are often used in a humorous manner. Some examples of irony include:

  • Your hands are as clean as mud
  • The dinner you served was as hot as ice
  • Coming home to a big mess and saying, “it’s great to be back”
  • Telling a rude customer to “have a nice day”


It is a repetition of a word or phrase at the start of several sentences of clauses. Some of the examples of anaphora are as follows:

  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “I Have a Dream” Speech
  • Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities
  • “Be bold. Be brief. Be gone.”
  • “Get busy living or get busy dying.”


It addresses the subject that is not present in the work. In this case, the object is absent or inanimate. Here are some of the examples of apostrophes. 

  • Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are
  • Welcome, O life!
  • Alarm clock, please don’t fail me.
  • Seven, you are my lucky number!


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:

  • Denial is a river in Egypt (referring to The Nile using the word Denial).
  • Her cat is near the computer to keep an eye on the mouse.
  • No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery.
  • Everyone thinks my runny nose is funny, but it’s snot.


These figures of speech, like ironies, emphasise something by discussing the exact opposite of it. A paradox, on the other hand, differs from an irony in that it does not make the contrast as evident. Let’s examine two instances of paradoxical figures of speech:

  • “Some of my biggest triumphs have also been failures,” (According to US actress Pearl Bailey)
  • “War is good. Slavery is freedom. “Ignorance is power,” (As said by English author George Orwell)
  • Save money by spending it
  • If I know one thing, it’s that I know nothing


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,

  • This is another fine mess you have got us into
  • Suddenly the room filled with a deafening silence
  • The comedian was seriously funny
  • You are clearly confused by the situation you have found yourself in


Internal vowels in nearby words that are the same or comparable in sound. Here are a few examples of assonance in speech:

  • How now, brown cow?
  • The light of the fire is a sight
  • Go slow over the road
  • Try as I might, the kite did not fly


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:

  • “That stuffed suit with the briefcase is a poor excuse for a salesman,” the manager said angrily.
  • The pen is mightier than the sword”
  • I’m a Silicon Valley guy. I just think people from Silicon Valley can do anything.
  • Most of the successful people in Hollywood are failures as human beings.

Figures of Speech PDF

50 Figures of Speech with Examples

  • When dissolving like soap in water. (Smile)
  • John is a goat. (Metaphor)
  • A rain starts or thinner, then look at the joy in the soil, the birds told me that you are going to distant lands. That beautiful sound of mountain mountain has traveled all around. (Personification)
  • The wave of the sea did not go as far as my heart. (Hyperbole)
  • Can you hear the clicks coming from the roof? (Onomatopoeia)
  • The monkey ate the beans in his hand. (Onomatopoeia)
  • I could not sleep through my mother snort during the night. (Onomatopoeia)
  • The flowing waters of the waterfall took all my troubles. (Onomatopoeia)
  • The food in the cauldron was boiling scalding. (Onomatopoeia)
  • I don’t want to hear the buzz of the fly standing by my ear. (Onomatopoeia)
  • He suddenly exploded when he threw the ball into the thorns. (Onomatopoeia)
  • I lubricated the creaking door hinges beautifully. (Onomatopoeia)
  • Daredevil: someone who takes unnecessary risks
  • Cheapskate: someone who hates to spend money
  • Joined at the hip: to be exceptionally close to someone
  • Elbow grease: hard physical effort
  • Oddball: a weirdo or a strange person
  • Down-To-Earth: sensible and realistic
  • Go-Getter: a person who is active, energetic, and has the initiative to pursue the things they want.
  • Break a leg: good luck
  • Cutting corners: Doing something poorly in order to save time or money
  • Hang in there: Don’t give up
  • Pull yourself together: Calm down
  • So far so good: Things are going well so far
  • A busybody: always wants to know about other people’s private lives
  • Oddball: a weirdo or a strange person
  • Down-To-Earth: sensible and realistic
  • Forty winks: a short nap
  • Barrel of laugh: someone who is very funny
  • Old as the hills: some who is very old
  • Red tape; Official or bureaucratic tasks
  • To be yellow; To be cowardly
  • To see red; To be very angry
  • Black out; Faint
  • Black and blue; Describe something that is badly bruised
  • Golden opportunity; The perfect chance
  • Have the blues; Be sad or depressed
  • Black sheep; A person who is a disgrace to a family or group
  • That’s a storm in a teacup, stop fussing about it, you can do it.
  • The air hostess greeted the passengers with a sunny smile.
  • They have the intention to flood the market with their new mobile phones.
  • If someone has a clean bill of health, they apply to many profession
  • My grandmother’s old, but she’s as fit as a fiddle.
  • If you a few days of rest and medication, you’ll be as fit as a fiddle.
  • I’m sorry I can’t make it. I’m feeling a bit under the weather today.
  • If someone looks or feels like ill or tired, they look death warmed up.
  • Oh dear! You look like death warmed up, I think doctor will prescribe you a lot of medicine. You shouldn’t be working all night when you’re so ill, you looks like death warmed up.
  • My mum’s not worried about the operation. She’s been under the knife several times.
  • Stacy went under the knife last week.

Must Read: Poetic Devices

15 Common Examples of Figures of Speech

Given below are some of the common examples to explain the figures of speech:

Figures of Speech Examples
Personification The opportunity knocked at his door
Metaphor It is raining cats and dogs
Simile He is as brave as a lion
Alliteration She sells seashells on the seashore
Onomatopoeia The buzzing bee flew over my head
Hyperbole She has got a pea-sized brain 
Euphemism He passed away in his sleep
Irony Your hands are as clean as mud
Anaphora Dr Martin Luther King Jr: “I Have a Dream” Speech
Apostrophe Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are
Pun Everyone thinks my runny nose is funny, but it’s snot.
Paradox “Some of my biggest triumphs have also been failures,”
Oxymoron You are clearly confused by the situation you have found yourself in
Assonance How now, brown cow?
Metonymy “The pen is mightier than the sword”

Writing Figures of Speech

In writing, when figures of speech are used effectively, these devices enhance the writer’s ability for description and expression so that readers have a better understanding of what is being conveyed. Here are some ways that writers benefit from incorporating it into their work:

  • Figure of Speech as Artistic Use of Language: Effective use of figures of speech is one of the greatest demonstrations of artistic use of language. Being able to create poetic meaning, comparisons, and expressions with these literary devices are how writers form art with words.
  • Figure of Speech as Entertainment for Reader: Effective figures of speech often elevate the entertainment value of a literary work for the reader. Many invoke humour or provide a sense of irony in ways that literal expressions do not. This can create a greater sense of engagement for the reader when it comes to a literary work.
  • Figure of Speech as Memorable Experience for Reader: By using it effectively to enhance description and meaning, writers make their works more memorable for readers as an experience. Writers can often share a difficult truth or convey a particular concept through figurative language so that the reader has a greater understanding of the material and one that lasts in memory.

Examples in English Literature

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:

  • The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

Fitzgerald makes use of simile here as a figure of speech to compare Gatsby’s party guests to moths. The imagery used by Fitzgerald is one of delicacy and beauty and creates an ephemeral atmosphere. However, the likening of Gatsby’s guests to moths also reinforces the idea that they are only attracted to the sensation of the parties and that they will depart without having made any true impact or connection. This simile underscores the themes of superficiality and transience in the novel.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Both described at the same time how it was always March there and always Monday, and then they understood that José Arcadio Buendía was not as crazy as the family said, but that he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the truth of the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room.

In this passage, Garcia Marquez utilizes personification as a figure of speech. Time is personified as an entity that “stumbled” and “had accidents.” This is an effective use of figurative language in that this personification of time indicates a level of human frailty that is rarely associated with something so measured. In addition, this is effective in the novel because time has a great deal of influence on the plot and characters of the story. Personified in this way, the meaning of time in the novel is enhanced to the point that it is a character in and of itself.

  • Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?

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.

Also Read: History of English Literature

How to Ace Figures of Speech?

Wondering what the hard and fast rule is to ace this section? The only thing that will help you is practice. We have curated a list of the best books that will help you ace it like a pro:

Figures of Speech: The Art of Ornate Diction Buy Here
Figures of Speech: Sixty Ways to Turn a Phrase Buy Here
A Handbook of Scansion and Figures of Speech Buy Here
Fantastic Figures of Speech (Fun with English) Buy Here
Figures of Speech: Figures of Speech Buy Here

Test Yourself and Complete this Exercise on Figures of Speech


What is the 12 figure of speech?

Some common figures of speech are alliteration, anaphora, antimetabole, antithesis, apostrophe, assonance, hyperbole, irony, metonymy, onomatopoeia, paradox, personification, pun, simile, synecdoche, and understatement.

What are the 5 main figure of speech?

Browse more Topics under Vocabulary.

How do I identify a figure of speech?

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

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.

Loading comments...
15,000+ students realised their study abroad dream with us. Take the first step today.
Talk to an expert