Literary Terms: Figures of Speech

Topic: Thomas Jefferson
Sample donated:
Last updated: May 14, 2019
an indirect or passing reference to an event, person, place or artistic work that the author assumes the reader will understand

an event, object, custom, person or thing that is out of its natural order of time. A clock strikes in Julius Caesar.

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a comparison of similar things, often to explain something unfamiliar with something familiar. (the branching of a river system is often explained using a tree and its branches.)

A terse statement of a principal or truth; a maxim. (Life is long, reasoning difficult, etc.


a rhetorical device in which the speaker addresses a dead or absent person, or an inanimate object or abstraction.

Any expression that has been used so often it has lost its freshness. (Sharp as a tack, the last straw, etc.)

a riddle with a punning answer

any terse, witty, pointed saying.

For example, “She knows the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.”

the substitution of a mild term for one more offensive of useful

Figurative Language
language that contains figures of speech, such as metaphor, simile, personification, etc.

exaggeration for the sake of emphasis in a figure of speech not meant literally. “I’ve been waiting here for ages.”

a metaphoric compound word or phrase used as a synonym for a common noun. “Ring-bestower” for king; “whale-road” for sea; “candle of heaven” for the sun; “war-brand” for a sword.

a figure of speech by which an affirmation is made indirectly by saying its opposite, usually with an effect of understatement. “I’d not be averse to a drink.

the comic situation of one word for another similar in sound, but quite different in meaning. “I would have her instructed in geometry (geography) that she might know of contagious (contiguous) countries.”

the most important and widespread figure of speech in which one thing, idea, or action is referred by a word or expression normally denoting another thing, idea or action, so as to suggest some common quality (qualities) shared by the two. “He is a pig.” Extended Metaphor – an idea sustained throughout the work Dead Metaphor – one that has been used so much it has lost its figurative meaning and is taken literally (eye of a needle, head of the class) Mixed Metaphor – a combination of two or more inconsistent metaphors in a single expression (He’ll have to take the bull by the horns to keep business afloat.)

figure of speech in which a representative term is used for a larger idea.

The pen is mightier than the sword.

the use of words that seem to imitate the sounds they refer to (whack, fizz, crackle, etc.)

A figure of speech in which two contradictory words or phrases are combined in a single expression.

(wise fool, living death, etc.)

the technique by which animals, abstract ideas, or inanimate objects are referred to as if they were human. “The wind howled through the trees.”

a short saying that expresses some commonplace truth or bit of folk wisdom. “A stitch in time saves nine.

a form of wit, not necessarily funny, involving a play on a word with two or more meanings.

a less direct metaphor, using like or as. “He is like a pig.”

A form of logical reasoning, consisting of two premises and a conclusion.

The description of one kind of sensation in terms of another. “He is wearing a loud shirt.

figure of speech that utilizes a part as representative of the whole (e.g. ‘hands’ for manual laborers; ‘the law’ for a police officer).

repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase or sentence. “With malice towards none, with charity for all.” Abraham Lincoln.

a type of verbal irony in which something is purposely represented as being far less important than it actually is.

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