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Figures of Speech

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A Figure of Speech is a departure from the ordinary form of expression, or the ordinary course of ideas in order to produce a greater effect. Figures of Speech may be classified as under:

1.Those based on Resemblance, such as Simile, Metaphor, Personification and Apostrophe.
2.Those based on Contrast, such as Antithesis and Epigram.
3.Those based on Association, such as Metonymy and Synecdoche.
4.Those depending on Construction, such as Climax and Anticlimax.

In a Simile a comparison is made between two objects of different words which have however at least one point in common. The Simile is usually introduced by such words as like, as or so. A comparison of two things of the same kind is not a Simile.

A Metaphor is an implied Simile. It does not, like the Simile, state that one thing is like another or acts as another, but takes that for granted and proceeds as if the two things were one. Thus when we say, ‘He fought like a lion' we use a Simile, but when we say, ‘He was a lion in the fight', we use a Metaphor.
Note 1: Every Simile can be compressed into a Metaphor and every Metaphor can be expanded into a Simile.
Note2: Metaphor should never be mixed. That is, an object should not be identified with two or more different things in the same sentence.

In Personification inanimate objects and abstract notions are spoken of as having life and intelligence.

An Apostrophe is a direct address to the dead, to the absent, or to a personified object or idea. This figure is a special form of personification.

In Hyperbole a statement is made emphatic by overstatement.

Euphemism consists in the description of a disagreeable thing by an agreeable name.

In Antithesis a striking opposition or contrast of words or sentiments is made in the same sentence. It is implied to secure emphasis.

Oxymoron is a special form of Antithesis, whereby two contradictory qualities are predicted at once of the same thing.

An Epigram is a brief pointed saying frequently introducing antithetical ideas which excite surprise and arrest attention.

Irony is a mode of speech in which the real meaning is exactly the opposite of that which is literally conveyed.

A Pun consists in the use of a word in such a way that it is capable of more than one application, the object being to produce a ludicrous effect.

In Metonymy (literally, a change of name) an object is designated by the name of something which is generally associated with it. Since there are many kinds of association between objects, there are several varieties of Metonymy. Thus a Metonymy may result from the use of-

(i)The sign of the person or thing symbolized.
(ii)The container for the thing contained.
(iii)The instrument for the agent.
(iv)The author for his works.
(v)The name of a feeling or passion for its object.

In Synecdoche a part is used to designate the whole or the whole to designate a part.

14.Transferred Epithet:
In this figure an epithet is transferred from its proper word to another that is closely associated with it in the sentence.

In Litotes an affirmative is conveyed by a negation of the opposite, the effect being to suggest a strong expression by means of a weaker. It is the opposite of Hyperbole.

Interrogation is the asking of a question not for the sake of getting an answer, but to put a point more effectively. This figure of speech is also known as Rhetorical Question because a question is asked merely for the sake of rhetorical effect.

In this figure the exclamatory form is used to draw the greater attention to a point than a mere bald statement of it could do.

Climax is the arrangement of a series of ideas in the order of increasing importance.

Anticlimax is the opposite of Climax-a sudden descent from higher to lower. It is chiefly used for the purpose of satire or ridicule.

Sample Usage



(a)The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold.
(b)The righteous shall flourish as the palm tree.
The following are some common similes of everyday speech:
Mad as March; as proud as peacock; as bold as brass; as tough as leather; as clear as crystal; as good as gold; as old as the hills.


(a)The camel is the ship of desert.
(b)Life is a dream.
(c)The news was a dagger to his heart.

Note 1 Examples:
Richard fought like a lion. (Simile)
Richard was a lion in the fight (Metaphor)
Variety is the spice of life. (Metaphor)
As spice flavours food, so variety makes life more pleasant. (Simile)

Note 2 Example:
I smell a rat
I see it floating in the air.


(a)Laughter holding both her sides.
(b)Death lays his icy hand on kings.
(c)In Saxon strength that abbey frowned.


(a)Milton! Thou should'st be living at this hour.
(b)Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean-roll!
(c)O death! Where is thy sting? O grave! Where is thy victory?


(a)Why, man, if the river were dry, I am able to fill it with tears.
(b)O hamlet! Thou has cleft my heart in twain.


(a)He has fallen asleep. (i.e., he is dead)
(b)You are telling me a fairy tale. (i.e., a lie)


(a)Man proposes, God disposes.
(b)Note that I loved Caeser less, but that I loved Rome more.
(c)To err is human, to forgive divine.
(d)Many are called, but few are chosen.


(a)So innocent arch, so cunningly simple.
(b)She accepted it as the kind cruelty of the surgeon's knife.


(a)The child is the father of man.
(b)Fool rush in where angels fear to tread.
(c)Art lies in concealing art.
(d)In the midst of life we are in death.

(a)No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.
(b)The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honourable gentleman has, with such spirit and decency, changed upon me. I shall neither attempt to palliate or deny.


(a)Is life worth living? - It depends upon the liver.
(b An ambassador is an honest man who lies abroad for the good of his country.


(a)The Bench, for the judges.
(b)The House, for the members of the Lok Sabha.
(c)The laurel, for success.
(d)You must address the chair. (i.e., chairman)
(e)The kettle boils.
(f)The pen is mightier than sword.
(g)We are reading Milton.


(a)Give us this day our daily bread. (i.e., food)
(b)All hands (i.e., crew) to the pumps.
(c)He has many mouths to feed.

14.Transferred Epithet:

(a)He passed a sleepless night.
(b)The ploughman homeward plods his weary way.
(c)A lackey presented an obsequious cup of coffee.


(a)I am a citizen of no mean (a very celebrated) city.
(b)The man is no fool. (clever)
(c)I am not a little (greatly) surprised.


(a)Am I my brother's keeper?
(b)Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?


(a)What a piece of work is man!
(b)O what a fall was there, my countrymen!

(a)Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime.


(a)Here thou, great Anna! Whom three realms obey.
Does sometimes counsel take- and sometimes tea.

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