What Are Figures of Speech? Different Types & Examples

Figures of speech are literary or lyrical devices that indicate more meaning than the literal meaning that the set of words indicates. There are many different kinds of figures of speech, let’s go through them one by one.


Alliterations is the repeated use of a sound, often consonants (but not necessarily), in order to create a sense of rhythm. Example: Betty bought some butter to make the bitter butter better.


An anaphora is when there is a repeated word or set of words that start a phrase, sentence or verse. Again, an anaphora is often used to establish a sense of rhythm. Example: Go big or go home; Get busy living or get busy dying.


Assonance involves the replication of vowel sounds in various different words. It is especially handy in poetry as it could potentially set up rhyming pairs and so on. Example: I want to fight the high king and drive his men into the mines, it is my right.


Onomatopoeia is amongst the last of our sound and rhythm-based devices that fits within the category of figure of speech. Onomatopoeia is most commonly present in describing action or sound in comic books or graphic novels. Example: Boom, Crack, Hiss etc.


When two distinct things are directly compared with the use of words such as “like”, “so”, “as” and so on, we can call it a simile. Example: Winter near the sea felt as hot as early summer; Winter near the sea felt like early summer.


Metaphors, like similes, are comparative devices. In the case of metaphors, a poet’s favourite friend, one is supposed to infer a lot more information about the subject from the direct likening of two or more distinct things or states of being. Example: Winter near the sea is early summer; Crowds at concerts are giant, overfed chameleons; she is now in the sunset of her days.


A personification is when you give human characteristics to a non-human object or subject. It creates an anthropomorphic yet stylish perspective to the world. Example: Lightning danced across the sky, The horizon drank the last drops of sunlight etc.

Transferred Epithet

When an adjective normally used to describe something is transferred to something else. This is stylistically very useful. The main difference between personification and transferred epithet is that the former relays activities and behaviours (adverbs and verbs) and the latter is mostly about adjectives. Example: The sun seemed irritated in the dry air, gloomy clouds, sleepless nights etc.


A climax is created by some kind of continual rising action. In the case of sentences or phrases, the emphasis over a certain subject can be intensified to achieve climax. Example: this dessert is too good, really spectacular, it’s a piece of art, it could even be sold at auctions!


It is the opposite of a climax in every way. The descriptions of a subject reduce in intensity over time. Example: finishing this assignment is proving to be a gargantuan task, it’s not worth my time, it’s dreary and only fools would commit to it.


Hyperbole is an exaggeration or overstatement. It emphasises, colourizes and stylizes a statement depending on how it’s used. Example: “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse”; They ran like greased lightning, He is as big as an elephant! Etc.


Ironies are generated by subverting expectations in some way. That is to say that you create a scenario where there is some contrast against expectations. Example: A police station gets robbed, a fire station burns down, a marriage counsellor files for divorce etc.

This is by no means an exhaustive list on the figures of speech, it is however a good starting point and introduction to quickly understand various figures of speech and their types. Do go out and explore more obscure forms of figures of speech or various other literary devices out there.


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