50 Figures of Speech (Types & Examples)

What are figures of speech?

Figures of speech are creative rhetorical devices that go beyond literal meaning. They make the language more colorful and impactful. These figures of speech allow the writers to convey ideas and imagery in an imaginative and unconventional way through comparisons, associations and plays on words. Some common examples include similes, metaphors, hyperbole, personification, oxymoron’s and alliteration. Skillful use of rhetorical devices brings vividness and flair to expression. These figures of speech make communication more engaging, memorable and expressive.

Importance of Figures of Speech

The figures of speech are important rhetorical device, that writers and speakers employ to enhance the power and impact of their language. The use of creative comparisons and vivid imagery engage the audience in memorable ways that literal language often lacks.

Figures of speech strengthen communication by using creative language to emphasize ideas in a more compelling way than plain speech alone. Their artful deviations from literal meaning make key points more memorable and impactful for audiences. Used strategically or just to infuse writing with imaginative flair, rhetorical devices ensure ideas resonate longer in the minds of the readers and listeners. In essence, by elevating functional language to an art form through their nuanced turns of phrase, figures of speech make messages more persuasive, engaging and unforgettable.

How to Find Figures of Speech in writing?

For finding figures of speech in the writing, it is necessary to look for words or phrases that are used in a non-literal way.

For example, if someone says ‘my heart is breaking’, he is using a metaphor to describe his emotions.

50 Figures Of Speech With Examples

Here is a list of 50 figures of speech used in English literature and daily communication:

1- Alliteration

Repetition of the same initial letter or sound in closely connected words. They could be uttered within a phrase of sentences, starting with the same sound of consonants but not necessarily being the same letter. Some examples of alliteration are:

  • Peter’s pink pig
  • She sells seashells
  • Big bad wolf
  • Sally sells seashells by the seashore

Example in literature

“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

“Once upon a midnight dreary.”

In the said context, the sound of ‘m‘ has been alliterated with ‘midnight‘ and ‘dreary’. The repetition of consonant sound creates a musical and effect. It enhances the gloomy atmosphere, which the write is trying to convey in the poem.

2- Anaphora

It is a type of amplification, wherein the words or phrases are reiterated in every clause, sentence and line. The word is used to stress an idea in a piece of writing or it serves as a connector.


  • I came, I saw, I conquered.
  • To be or not to be, that is the question.
  • United we stand, divided we fall.

Example in literature

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Dickens has used anaphora by repeating the phrase ‘it was’ at the beginning of each successive clause. He emphasizes the contrasting nature of the time period. The practice of anaphora is used to establish a unique mood and setting that stick in people’s minds to capture it as a whole.

3- Antithesis

It is a literary device, which is used to juxtapose the contrasting ideas in balanced phrases. It highlights opposition through parallel grammatical structures.


  • The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  • You win some, you lose some.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but out of sight is out of mind.

Example in literature

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost”

The first line ‘All that is gold does not glitter’ sets up an expectation. The second line ‘Not all those who wander are lost’ subverts it with the opposite proposition. This creates an antithetical parallel structure that emphasizes the contrast between appearances/expectations and realities. Things are not always as they seem on the surface.

4- Apostrophe

A direct address to an absent or dead person, or to an object, quality, or idea. It is a rhetorical device used to engage or emotionally influence the audience.


  • Stupid phone, why aren’t you charging?
  • Come on feet, you can make it up the stairs!
  • Thank you coffee for the caffeine boost.

Example in literature

“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

“O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”

The rhetorical device gives an emotional outlet to Juliet and draws the audience deeper into her perspective. It underscores the tragedy of their star-crossed love and opposing families through Juliet’s anguished pleas. This example demonstrates how apostrophe can powerfully convey emotion and engagement when used skillfully in literary works like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It intensifies reader experience of the characters and themes.

5- Assonance

The repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words. It adds musicality and emphasis to speech or writing. Assonance creates cadences that can make utterances more memorable, soothing or impactful.


  • Pick a pink peach please.
  • Slowly she strode down the street.
  • Do you need anything else?

Example in literature

“The King’s English” by Kingsley Amis

“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”

This famous tongue twister uses assonance extensively through the repetition of the “ai” sound in words like “rain”, “Spain”, “mainly”. The assonance highlights the difficulty in pronouncing the phrase quickly due to all the similar vowel sounds falling in close succession. It makes the sentence rhythmically challenging to say.

6- Allusion

A reference to a well-known person, place, event or work of art. It relies on the readers or listener’s background knowledge and cultural literacy. They allow speakers to colorfully draw on cultural knowledge without exposition.


  • That plan is doomed like the Titanic.
  • Don’t pull a Houdini on me!
  • She’s no Mother Teresa.

Example in literature

“The American Crisis” by Thomas Paine

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

This well-crafted allusion would resonate powerfully with educated readers, which reminds them of the challenges ahead in their fight for independence using a culturally significant reference. It illustrates how allusions can add profound layers of inferred meaning in literature by drawing on intertextual connections in an economy of words.

Figures of Speech with Examples
Figures of Speech with Examples

7- Anachronism

Something out of its normal time. It involves mentioning something from a different time period in a way that distorts the actual chronology.


  • I was just watching some Netflix after work yesterday.
  • Let me check my iPhone for the time.
  • I’ll email you the details later today.

Example in literature

“Ulysses” by Alfred Tennyson

 “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees.”

Tennyson imagines the thoughts and desires of the Homeric hero Ulysses in his later years after returning home from the Trojan War. However, the language and ideas Tennyson attributes to Ulysses are anachronistic, as they reflect Victorian England in the 19th century rather than ancient Greece.

8- Anastrophe

The inversion of the usual order of words. It involves rearranging the structure of words or phrases for impact. It creates variety from the standard structures we expect. 


  • Fed up am I with this traffic!
  • Off to work go I.
  • In the kitchen, what’s that noise?

Example in literature

“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

“Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds, Towards Phoebus’ lodging! Such a wagoner As Phaëton would whip you to the west And bring in cloudy night immediately.”

Romeo uses anastrophe by rearranging the expected word order of ‘fiery-footed steeds’ to emphasize the speed and passion of the horses as they carry the sun across the sky. While inverting ‘fiery-footed steeds’ to ‘you fiery-footed steeds’, the writer draws attention to the horses through anastrophe and builds dramatic tension as Romeo anxiously awaits nightfall.

9- Antagonym

A word that can have opposite meanings. Here are the common antagonym examples:

  1. Sanction – This word can mean “to approve” or “to penalize.” Example A: “The manager sanctioned the purchase of new computers.” (Approved) Example B: “The UN threatened sanctions against the hostile nation.” (Penalized)
  2. Oversight – This word refers to an unintentional failure to notice something, or the act of overseeing/supervising.
    Example A: “The typo was due to an oversight by the editor.” (Failure to notice)
    Example B: “There will be governmental oversight of the program.” (Supervision)
  3. Left – This word indicates either “departed” or “remaining.” Example A: “Most of the cake was eaten, but some was left.” (Remaining) Example B: “The traveler left early in the morning.” (Departed)

10- Antimetabole

Antimetabole involves the repetition of a phrase or statement in a reversed sequence. 

Example in “Frankenstein” by Shelley

“I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.”

The above excerpt illustrates the antimetabole literary device through a reversed order of repetition including “and trampled on, and kicked, and spurned at”. This shows how much Frankenstein’s monster is being mistreated and rejected by society.

11- Antonomasia

Antonomasia is the act of replacing the name of an individual with another word/phrase. This word simply represents aspects of character of a person. It is also used to highlight similarity or relation between two people or item.


  • The term calling someone who is very organized “a Monica” in relation to the well manicured Monica Geller character from friends.
  • Calling someone cunning, crafty and shrewd as Judas, in reference to the Judas Iscariot of the Bible, who beated Jesus.
  • Suggesting that an innocent, mischievous troublesome child is a “Dennis the Menace”.

12- Asyndeton

The literary device of Asyndeton involves leaving out connective words like ‘and’ or ‘or’ among other conjunctions when a number of connected clauses follow one preceding clause. This allows for faster movement as well as highlights the importance of it.


  • Essays must be submitted on time.
  • The house was ready for living with the furniture in it, carpets laid on the floor, and curtains drawn.

13- Anadiplosis 

This is the repetition of the last word of a preceding clause at the beginning of the next one.


  • Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
  • The environment, it is life and therefore we have to save it.
  • I did everything I could. My best efforts were insufficient.
  • You entered my world. My world has changed forever.

14- Chiasmus

Chiasmus is a rhetorical device in which two or more clauses are balanced against each other by the reversal of structures in order to produce a mirror effect.


  • Fair is foul, and foul is fair. (Shakespeare’s Macbeth)
  • You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget. (Cormac McCarthy, The Road)
  • Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. (John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address)

15- Catachresis

Catachresis is the use of a word in an incorrect way or in the wrong context for rhetorical effect.


  • Using ‘blanket of snow’ to describe snow covering the ground, even though blankets do not look like snow.
  • Referring to a loud noise as ‘deafening silence’ despite the contradiction between deafening and silence.
  • Describing someone’s smile as ‘infectious’ even though smiles do not spread disease like an infection.

16- Climax

The climax refers to the most tense and dramatic part of the narrative in works of literature. This is the climax when tension attains its zenith and the conclusion of the tale begins. Following this is a resolution stage whereby the major conflicts in the story are solved and the fate of characters is ascertained. A fundamental part of structure that also helps generate tension in the story and hold on the attention of the reader or viewer.

Types of Climax

Emotional Climax: The moment comes when a subject becomes too frustrated and bursts out with an enormous amount of emotion leading to an unexpected ending.

Plot Climax: This is where the climax of the story takes place, where the conflict culminates, and the starting point for the resolution.

Social Climax: It happens when someone or some people climb to a top of social position in most cases by planned strategy.

17- Euphemism

A mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt.


  • Passed away instead of died
  • Let go instead of fired
  • Challenged instead of disabled

Example in literature

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“Mrs. Dubose was a morphine addict,” said Atticus. “She took it as a pain-killer for years. The doctor put her on it. She’d have spent the rest of her life on it and died without so much agony, but she was too contrary—”

Here, words ‘addict and ‘pain killer’ have been used instead of direct terms like, ‘drug habit’ or ‘opiate addiction’. This may have been considered crude or inappropriate at the time. This allows the author to discuss Mrs. Dubose’s situation in a more genteel and less shocking way. He uses the euphemistic language rather than direct terminology.

18- Ellipsis

The omission of words necessary for complete grammatical construction but understood in the context.


  • The European soldiers killed six of the remaining villagers, the American soldiers, two.

Example in Literature

“Emma” by Jane Austen

“He is very plain, undoubtedly—remarkably plain: but that is nothing compared with his entire want of gentility. I had no right to expect much, and I did not expect much; but I had no idea that he could be so very clownish, so totally without air. I had imagined him, I confess, a degree or two nearer gentility.”

Austen uses an ellipsis here when Harriet says “I had imagined him…a degree or two nearer gentility.” Harriet doesn’t finish her thought. The ellipsis shows that her words trail off hinting that she is uncomfortable admitting she hoped Mr. Martin would be more refined. This allows Austen to suggest Harriet’s embarrassment, without having her directly spell it out.

19- Enjambment

The continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line, couplet, or stanza in poetry.

Example in Literature

“Sonnet 116” by William Shakespeare

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove.”

The writer employs the literary device of enjambment in the foresaid lines. Rather than pausing at the end of the line, the sentence continues into the next one without punctuation. This creates a flowing and lyrical feeling that mirrors the notion of love not being impeded.

20- Epistrophe

The repetition of a word at the end of successive clauses or sentences.


  • Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth. (Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address)
  • We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills (Winston Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons)

Example in literature

“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”

The use of epistrophe has been observed in “I have a dream” at the start of several different phrases. The repetitive nature of this technique underscores his idea about the future, and it helps make his words more poignant, inspiring and memorable. Every time King says “I have a dream” he refers to his wish that there should be harmony and equality in the United States. Anaphora (repeated phrase leading to clauses) of this aspirational sentence provides rhetorical force and rhythm of the speech to crescendo at emotional climax where King’s dreams of the nation are presented.

21- Euphony

The use of phrases and words that are noted for their mellifluousness and ease in speaking.


  • The sounds of children’s laughter carried melodiously through the warm summer air.
  • The babbling brook babbled pleasantly as it wound its way through the verdant meadow.

Example in literature

“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens

The lilting euphony of the writing style matches Pip’s hopeful expectations as he journeys to Miss Havisham’s house for the first time:

“The mist was heavier yet when I got out upon the marshes, so that instead of my running at everything, everything seemed to run at me. This was very disagreeable to a guilty mind. The gates and dykes and banks came bursting at me through the mist, as if they cried as plainly as could be, ‘A boy with somebody else’s pork pie! Stop him!’”

The consonance and assonance create a musical, flowing quality to mimic Pip’s eager and optimistic young imagination, which emphasizes the theme of hope in the novel.

22- Epizeuxis 

The repetition of a word or phrase in immediate succession, typically within the same sentence, for vehemence or emphasis.


  • Alone, alone, all, all alone, Alone on a wide, wide sea.
  • Fight, fight for your rights and your freedom!

Example in literature

“Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

Mark Antony repeats the words in his famous speech to emphasize his points and rouse the crowd:

“For Brutus is an honorable man; So are they all honorable men— Come I to speak at Caesar’s funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me.”

The repetition of words ‘honorable’ and subsequently ‘faithful’ create stress qua the qualities of Caesar, while planting seeds of doubt through his epizeuxis. The repetition mimics the persuasive rhythm of a skillful orator whipping the crowds into an emotional frenzy over Caesar’s death.

23- Hyperbole

Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claim that is not meant to be taken literally, but instead used as a way to emphasize a point or evoke strong feelings.


  • I’ve told you a million times to clean your room!
  • The wait to get in was endless.

Example in literature

“Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare

“For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”

When Romeo first lays eyes on Juliet, he goes overboard describing how he has never seen someone so beautiful before. He is basically exaggerating to show just how head-over-heels in love with her he is already. This total exaggeration about her sets things up for how their whole intense, doomed relationship story will go from here.

24- Hendiadys 

A figure of speech in which a single complex idea is expressed by two words connected with “and” rather than a noun and adjective.


  • We listened to the poet’s wise and ancient words.
  • The guests ate and drank until late in the evening.

Example in literature

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Her voice is full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it.”

Here the words ‘jingle’ and ‘cymbals song’ express the musical quality of Daisy’s voice more vividly than just calling it ‘musical voice’. The pairing of synonymous nouns intensifies the quality being described.

25- Hypallage 

A figure of speech in which the syntactic relation between two terms is reversed. It is often used for poetic effect.


  • “The heavy foot of time” instead of “the footfalls of heavy time”.
  • The hungry stomach waited impatiently to be fed.

Example in literature

“Love Medicine” by Louise Erdrich

“The windswept plain gave no shelter to wandering cattle, and slanted wood planks of abandoned farmhouse doors banged in aimless gusts.”

The way Erdrich describes the wind is real neat. Instead of just saying the wind was blowing hard or whatever, she says the plain itself was windswept.

26- Innuendo

An indirect or subtle observation about a thing or person. It is generally critical, disparaging, or salacious in nature.


  • Some say he’s not unfamiliar with the inside of a jail cell.
  • The politician claimed to stand for family values, but his record showed otherwise.

Example in literature

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

“Is Miss Darcy much grown since the spring?” said Miss Bingley; “will she be as tall as I am?”
“I think she will. She is now about Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s height, or rather taller.”

Jane Austen hints at some sexual stuff going on between Lizzy Bennet and Miss Bingley about Darcy. When they’re talking about how tall each of them are, it seems like they’re also arguing about who’s gonna be the one in charge in their whole complicated relationship with Darcy. Like the one who stands tallest gets to boss around the other two and so I think Austen’s pretty slyly starting some drama here with that suggestive comparison of their heights.

27- Jargon

Special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.


  • Please reboot your PC to complete the installation.
  • The computer technicians talked about RAM, CPUs, and SSDs when upgrading the office devices.

Example in literature

“The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

“Takes a good mechanic to keep ‘em rollin’. Know how a differential works?”

The talk about car stuff like the differential shows how Al uses a bunch of mechanic words. Steinbeck makes it clear what Al does for a living just through the way he talks, without having to straight up say he’s a mechanic. Using all those gearhead terms makes Al seem more like a real person instead of just a character, and lets you get to know him better since you can see stuff about his job.

27- Juxtaposition

The fact of placing two or more things side by side, often with the intent of comparing or contrasting them.


  • Beauty and decay.
  • The lavish wedding reception was held in the ballroom, while homeless people searched for food in the alley behind the hotel.

Example in literature

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

“And yet he did it with what composure and concentration we have seen … accomplishing the task he set himself, both in the poor workshop and in the rich drawing-room.”

Dickens tries to get readers to really grasp the huge change in Dr. Manette’s life by showing the difference between his nice old job as a fancy doctor with a swanky office and his current gig cobbling shoes together in a dingy workshop and it’s like night and day – he went from living’ large to just scrapping by. It really makes you think about how quick things can turn around, don’t it?

28- Irony

Expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite.


  • A plumber’s house always has leaking taps.
  • A traffic jam occurred on the highway on the day I left extra early to avoid being late.

Example in literature

 “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

“There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.”

Mrs. Mallard is elated on hearing that her husband has passed away as she feels liberate from the union. Unfortunately, in a bitter irony of fate, she is overcome by shock following arrival from nowhere of Mr. Mallard who appears very much alive. Here, Chopin uses situational irony that inverts the scenario that Mrs. Mallard and the readers are accustomed to. This, in essence, explains why marriage was quite oppressing to her.

29- Litotes

An understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.


  • He’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
  • The hike through the canyon was no walk in the park.

Example in literature

“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë

Nelly criticizes Heathcliff with litotes after he returns following Catherine’s death:

“He’s not a rough diamond – a pearl-containing oyster of a rustic: he’s a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man.”

Bronté says heathcliff is no rough diamond but fierce and pitiless wolflike man with an attempt to understate the extent of Nelly’s hatred towards him. This makes the character of Heathcliff even crueler in an accentuated manner through negation instead of direct condemnation.

30- Metaphor

A metaphor makes a direct comparison between two unlike things, stating that one thing is the other.


  • My old car was a dinosaur – old and decrepit.
  • The assignment was a breeze – extremely easy.

Example in literature

“Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare

“As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven Would through the airy region stream so bright.”

He compares Juliet’s eyes to stars. Romeo says her eyes would shine as brightly in the sky as daylight does to a lamp. Shakespeare uses metaphor to elevate Juliet’s beauty to celestial heights.

31- Metonymy

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is used to represent something else with which it is closely associated or related. It consists in replacing the name of one object of the other similar object.


  • The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • The White House issued a statement.

Example in literature

“Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”

 In this line, “ears” is used to represent the attention or audience of the people.

32- Malapropism

Malapropism is an error of language which involves one word being wrongly exchanged for another closely sounding word having the opposite meaning which results into nonsense or some funny statement.


  • He is the pineapple of politeness.
  • I’m on a seafood diet. I see food, and I eat it.

Example in literature

“Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare

“Comparisons are odorous.”

Here, Dogberry mistakenly uses “odorous” instead of “odious,” resulting in a humorous misuse of the word.

33- Meiosis

A euphemistic figure of speech that intentionally understates something or implies that it is lesser in significance or size.


  • I’m somewhat tired after completing a marathon.
  • It’s just a flesh wound.

Example in literature

“Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

This reduces the focus on his intentionality in order to build up a strong empathic sense. The above instances go to show that Meiosis can be employed to underrate or reduce a matter for comic effect or emphasis.

34- Onomatopoeia

The use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions to which they refer.


  • “Buzz” – the word imitates the sound of a bee.
  • “Splash” – the word resembles the sound of something hitting or entering water.

“The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe

“How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, In the icy air of night!”

The word “tinkle” imitates the sound of bells ringing, which provides a sensory experience for the reader. These examples illustrate how Onomatopoeia is used to bring aural imagery to written language, evoking sounds through words.

35- Oxymoron

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines two contradictory terms to create a paradoxical effect. It is usually used to create a dramatic or thought provoking impact in literature, poetry or everyday language.

Example in literature

“Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare

“Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

Here, the combination of ‘sweet’ and ‘sorrow’ creates the oxymoronic expression. I hope this clarifies the concept of an oxymoron and provides relevant examples.

36- Paradox

A statement that seems self-contradictory or nonsensical but in reality expresses a possible truth.

Example in literature

“1984” by George Orwell

“War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”

The juxtaposition of contradictory concepts forms a paradox. It reflects the twisted logic of the dystopian society depicted in the novel.

37- Parallelism

The use of components in a sentence that are grammatically the same or similar in their construction, sound, meaning or meter.


  • To be, or not to be: that is the question. (Hamlet)
  • The midnight’s all a-glimmer, and ’tis oil midnight. (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Example in literature

“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

“The evening ailed her, and she grew shimmeringly and inconsolably pale. She was disturbed.”

In the aforesaid example, ‘ailed her’ and ‘grew shimmeringly and inconsolably pale. She was disturbed’ are parallel in structure and meaning. The sentence creates a strong image of the protagonist emotional state through repetition of sentence structure and synonyms.

38- Personification

Attributing human characteristics to nonhuman things.


  • The sun smiled on the meadow.
  • The wind whispered through the trees.
  • The clock struck midnight.

See also: Anthropomorphism vs Personification

Example in literature

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

“The hills were alive with the sound of music.” 

In the aforesaid example, personification is used to describe the tranquil hills surrounding the setting as if the hills themselves emanated sound. This poetic device makes the scene vivid and lively, which allows the readers or viewers to visualize the environment more clearly.

39- Pun

A pun refers to a type of a joke that uses one word but with multiple meanings either deliberately or unintentionally.


  • I’m reading a book on anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down!
  • She died doing what she loved, spreading satin.

Example in literature

“Hamlet” by Shakespeare

“To be, or not to be: that is the butt’s finish. Or, to butt or not to butt–that is the question:”

The speaker creates puns by substituting words like ‘butt’ for ‘to be’ and ‘butt’ or ‘or not to butt’ for ‘to be, or not to be’. These humorous wordplays provide a comedic take on the original soliloquy. It reveals the power and versatility of language and English puns. Moreover, the puns help to convey a sense of humorous absurdity, which serves as an effective way of breaking the tension in a scene.

40- Pathetic fallacy

Attributes human feelings and responses to inanimate things or animals, especially in art and literature.


  • The somber clouds darkened our mood.

Example in literature

“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare

Naught’s had, all’s spent,
Since it operational kind
Was mine, ’tis interference, ‘twixt drunkenness
And sleep, ‘twixt waking and oblivion
‘Tis an easyZoomonly title Loans Credit Line perfect palindrome
‘Tis but a year or two at most, / Ere I must sleep in my tomb.”

This excerpt is rich in pathetic fallacy, as the thunder, lightning and rain are personified and directly connected to the events and emotions of the characters.

41- Periphrasis

A literary device that is used in the formulation of an alternative and shorter phrase to replace a relatively long and complicated one. This is usually in form of a circumlocution or round about expression, rather than direct or literal phraseology. Periphrasis is used because of different aims that include highlighting the statement, adding weight or solemnness, masking the sense and avoiding tediousness.

Common Example

  • At this current moment in time” instead of “now.”
  • Instead of saying “You stupid idiot,” one might say, “You’re not exactly a genius,”

Example In literature

“Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare

“O, she doth mock me too! Friar Laurence, I took her for my flour and frame; and now am I turn’d, then, an compromise of sound and sense, I am very salt of tear.”

Through the use of periphrasis, Lord Capulet is able to express the depth of his grief and the magnitude of his loss without resorting to simple and direct language.

42- Polyptoton

The stylistic scheme in which words derived from the same root are repeated.


  • Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.

Example in literature

“As You Like It” by Shakespeare

“For who so firm that cannot be agitated? Be not disturbed, though change and chiding chance, By gallants fond, by gossips diffame; praise you, and why not? Speak you praises, or wherein dish? If you disgust, why then fair Mar low despite? If you can blame, blame; if you cannot blame, why then be brief! Thus convergence, thus men judge of us: If we be merry, praise it not; If we be grave, thengraver us: Set down these rights; where is your scribe? Write, for my part, I am I.”

Through the use of Polyptoton in her speech, Rosalind is able to stress the theme of changeability and inconsistency in human beings. She repeated the word ‘change’ with different endings and parts of speech to emphasize her meaning in a poetic and impactful manner.

43- Polysyndeton

Deliberate use of many conjunctions. This literary technique creates a series of equal clauses that are connected by ‘and’, ‘but’ ‘or’ and other coordinating conjunctions, which emphasizes the parallel structure of the sentences.


  • We have ships and men and money and stores.

Example in literature

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“The sluggish ooze, which heaped round my feet,
Cold slid and squirmed, and multiple my pains;
And faster and faster sunk that stone!
Who laid bat wings to Memphian sculptures’ eyes!
Beneath the rocks, beneath the sea, / The old man popped.”

Through the use of Polysyndeton in this poem, Coleridge is able to emphasize the parallels, repeated and iterative circumstances faced by the speaker, which makes the poem more engaging and vivid.

The use of more words than necessary to convey meaning either as a fault of style or for emphasis.

44- Pleonasm 

It is a rhetoric device whereby two words are used to emphasize one meaning. This refers to a writing style that tends to use a lot of words to convey an idea while also repeating or using double terms denoting exactly the same meaning. 


  • see with one’s eyes or burning fire.

Example in literature

“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye

“I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.”

Here, the repetition of ‘I am’ is used to reinforce the idea of the speaker’s presence and continuity even after death. The use of pleonasms in this poem creates a lyrical and immersive quality, which emphasizes the richness and significance of everyday experiences.

45- Simile

A comparison between two unlike things using ‘like’ or ‘as’. Simile helps to create vivid imagery and convey complex emotion by providing a concrete example or comparison.


  • Her smile was as bright as the sun.
  • She worked like a horse

Example in literature

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare

“I am seraunt to some demies,
That mock our masters of their festivities;
And sometimes I’ll a little poster it,
When you have done your exercises,
And wonder thengpuly how you come to it;
But whether by born or taught I cannot decipher;
It enables me to speak in divinity;
And ’tis a common proof that low men understand it.”

Here, Puck uses a simile to describe his ability to move unnoticed. This simile is powerful and intriguing as it draws an interesting parallel between Puck’s movements and servants making fun of their masters festivities. The use of simile in this instance helps to convey the idea that Puck is able to move around discreetly without being seen.

46- Synecdoche

A part is made to represent the whole or vice versa.


  • All hands on deck.
  • Give me four

Example in literature

“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, / Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—” 

Poe’s use of a raven as a symbol in his poem goes beyond just representing a specific bird – it also highlights the gloomy associations and connotations that humans often attach to it. The poet employs synecdoche to represent the whole in order to create a somber and melancholic atmosphere.

47- Sibilance

A literary device where strongly stressed consonants are created deliberately by producing soft, hissing sounds. This effect is often produced through the use of sibilant consonant sounds, such as ‘s’, ‘sh’, ‘z’, and ‘zh’.


  • The slithering snake slid through the grass.
  • The sea slashed against the shore

Example in literature

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

“Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a lifetime
Of trouble, of growing old
Shall not make, shall not mitigate,
Shall not make amends for,
Still less does forgiveness,
Since that silence in which we all
Die like a departed king”

The writer uses a literary device called sibilance to create a pensive and contemplative mood. This technique involves the repetition of words with an ‘s’ sound, such as ‘disturb’ and ‘universe’, which contributes to a whispery and introspective tone that matches the speaker’s inner thoughts. The repetition of initial ‘s’ sounds in these words helps to establish a connection between the speaker’s thoughts and the events that he ponders, which creates a sense of complexity and instability in the relationship between the two.

48- SynScope

A figure of speech in which a part of a sentence is repeated in a different way. For example, “The dog, the dog, that stole the cat” is a sycope that repeats the word “dog” in a different way to emphasize it.

Example in literature

“Finnegans Wake” by James Joyce

“(Arise, O sleeper, I would cry to you up in your burrow, / Come out,\n”

James Joyce uses the literary device of syncope, which involves omitting letters or sounds from words to mimic natural speech. He builds dense, meaningful passages around gaps and distortions in dialogue to represent a sedated and slurred voice. The contrast between these sections of rich prose and moments of silence allows Joyce to vividly render the intense inner experiences and obsessions of his characters.

49- Tautology

Saying the same thing twice in different words, which is considered to be a redundancy.


  • She took a deep breath and breathed in deeply.
  • I have already told you that I will never do it again.

Example in literature

“Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare

“Arise, fair sun, and kill the enviously dark night!”

Shakespeare uses repetition of the phrases ‘fair sun’ and ‘enviously dark night’ to emphasize the depth of Romeo’s feelings for Juliet. Though the two phrases mean the same thing, however their repetition create a strong visual image and sensuous tone that mirrors Romeo’s intense emotions. This repetitive technique enriches the text’s poetic style and resonates with the reader, which underscores the passionate love between the two characters.

50- Zeugma

A word applies to two others in different senses.


  • She broke his car and his heart.
  • She dressed her doll and her brother.

Example in literature

“A Walk” by Joseph Brodsky

“Officials throng the streets, The sun stews, yesterday’s rain Drips from the leaves and whatever else Will hold such pineapple.”

Brodsky uses zeugma that yokes together two ideas that may not naturally belong together. He connects ‘officials throng the streets’ with ‘the sun stews’ pairing a group of people with a description of the weather. This unusual juxtaposition allows Brodsky to hyperbolize and satirize as he critically examines the Soviet regime.

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