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9 Common Figures of Speech you need to be familiar with

See the 9 Common figures of speech with examples. An article written by Ali Akadija.

common figures of speech

A figure of speech is a rhetorical device that achieves a special effect by using words in a distinctive way. It is also an intentional deviation from ordinary language. Figures of speech are also called rhetorical figures.

There are wealth of these literary tools in English some of which are; simile, hyperbole, metaphor, apostrophe, personification, metonymy, synedoche, euphemism, irony, pun, oxymoron, epigram, litotes, interrogation, climax, anticlimax, alliteration, onomatopoeia, tautology, circumlocution, anaphora, chiasmus, antithesis, paradox, understatement, assonance, analogy, allergory, zoosemy, allusion, antaclasis, antiphrasis, cataphhora, dysphemism, ellipsis, merism, metaplesis, anastrophe, e.t.c

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In this article we Will discuss 9 common figures of speech and their examples

9 Common Figures of Speech and their examples.

1. Simile;

common figures of speech: simile

This is a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid. simile directly compares two things. it uses ‘like’ and ‘as’ to highlight the similarities between two things.

Common examples of simile are;

  • as brave as a lion
  • as red as a rose
  • as cunning as a fox
  • as simple as ABC
  • as funny as a barrel of monkeys
  • as clean as a whistle
  • as cool as cucumber
  • as dead as doornail
  • as dry as a bone
  • as flat as a pancake
  • as fresh as a daisy e.t.c

2. Metaphor;

This is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is literally non applicable.

examples of metaphor
Examples of Metaphor (

A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another.

It usually clarify hidden similarities between two ideas.

Popular metaphors quote from the sayings of popular men

  • All the world’s a stage and all men and women merely players –williams shakespeare.
  • The big bang- Fred Hoyle
  • Art washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life – Pablo Picasso
  • all religions, arts, and sciences are branches of the same tree- Albert Einstein
  • a hospital bed is a parked taxi with a metre running- groucho marx.
    chaos is a freind of mine- Bob Dylan
  • and your very flesh shall be a great peom- Walt Whiteman
  • fill your paper with the breathings of your heart- William Wordsworth
    dying is a wild night and a new road- Emily Dickinson

Metaphors about nature includes;

  • kisses are the flowers of affection
  • the calm lake was a mirrorthe falling snowflakes are dancers
  • the snow is a white blanket.

Other common examples of metaphor includes:

  • Heart of gold
  • Raining cats and dogs
  • The curtain of night fall upon us
  • Blanket of hope
  • Shiver my timbers
  • Life is a mere dream e.t.c

3. Personification;

Personification gives human traits and qualities such as emotions, desires, sensations,gestures and speech, often by the way of metaphor [anthropomorphic metaphor].

common figures of speech
Examples of personification (wikihow)

It is the representation of an abstract quality in human form. It is most used in visual arts.

In personification, non -human objects are potrayed in such a way that we feel that they have the ability to act like human.

Some examples of personification of nature includes;

  • lightning danced across the sky
  • the wind howled in the night
  • the sun smiled at us
  • the ocean heaved a sigh
  • the flowers danced in the gentle breeze
  • the birds lamented over the dead body of the tree
  • death is the mother of beauty
  • the stars winked

Here are some examples of personifications quoted from various literary works

  • April is the cruelest month- T.S Eliot
  • The fog comes on little cat feet- Carl Sandburg
  • When it comes, the landscapes listens- Emily Dickinson
  • These are the lips of the lake, on which no beard grows, it licks its chops from time to time.- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

4. Hyperbole;

Hyperbole from the greek word meaning excess, is a figure of speech use as exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech.

common figures of speech: hyperbole
Examples of Hyperbole (grammer-monster)

It uses extreme exaggeration to make a point or show emphasis. it is sometimes known as auxesis.

Here are some examples of hyperbole that will blow your mind;

  • I want to be tapeworm skinny
  • This humidity is more oppressive than dictatorship
  • The news hit me like tsunami
  • He is dumber than doorknob
  • I love you more than forever
  • I’m seriously starving
  • I have a bazillion things to do
  • I’d climb mount everest just to see you for more 30 seconds.
  • They are meant for each other than romeo and juliet
  • I love you so hard, my heart is pouding out of my chest.
  • You are brighter than the shiniest star.
  • He is toothpick skinny.
  • They ran like greased lightning.

5. Oxymoron;

Oxymoron is a combination of two greek words; oxy meaning ‘sharp’ and moron meaning ‘dull’. It is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.

Examples of Oxymoron (grammer-monster)

In oxymoron two opposite ideas are joined to create an effect.

This contradiction is sometimes known as ‘paradox’. Richard Watson an author once said, the true beauty of oxymorons is that unless we sit back and really think, we happily accept them as normal English

In writings, oxymorons used to describe life’s inherent conflicts and incongruities. While in speech oxymorons can lead to irony, sarcasm, or humor.

Below are some examples of oxymoronic quotes;

  • absence presence- Sidney
  • beggarly riches- Donne
  • brisk vacancy- Ashberry
  • comfortable misery- Koontz
  • darkness visible- Milton
  • falsely true- Tennyson
  • lascivious grace- Shakespeare
  • liquid marble- Jonson
  • melancholy merriment- Byron
  • scalding coolness- Hemingway
  • the sound of silence- Simon
  • sweet sorrow- Shakespeare
  • transparent night- whitman

Here are some common examples of oxymorons in sentence

  • What a FINE MESS you’ve got us into
  • There is a real LOVE HATE relationship developing between us
  • Do you have the ORIGINAL COPIES that we requested?
  • The girl is PRETTY UGLY
  • The sermon lasted for ENDLESS HOUR.

6. Alliteration;

This is the conspicuous repetition of identical initial consonant sounds in successive or closely associated syllables within as group of words, even those spelled differently.

Examples of Alliteration
Examples of Alliteration (grammer-monster)

Alliteration is a term used to describe a literary device in which words begin with the same consonant sound.they are more like tongue twisters.
example of alliterations
the beautiful bouquet blossomrd in the bright sun
the candy was killing my cavity
i dunked the delicious doughnut in diary creamer
our financial future falls into freehand
grass grows greener in the graveyard
those horses have heavy hooves.
here are some alliteration tongue twisters;
i wish to wish the wish you wish to wish but if you wish to wish the wish witch wishes i wont wish to wish trhe wish you wish to wish
a good cook could cook as much cookies as a good cook who could cook cookies

7. Pun;

It is a form of word play that exploits multiple meanings of a term, or of similar sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect.

Example of Pun
Example of Pun (

Paronomasia is the rhetorical term for punning which literally means ‘to call a different name’

Puns rely on several types of words to work, words that are similar SUCH AS HOMOPHONES, HOMONYMS, and HOMOGRAPHS.

Shakespeare is the writer best known for puns!

How many puns have you noticed in romeo and juliet? Did you noticed his plays with TIDE and TIED in TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA? if you did’nt you’ve to go and check!

Here are some examples of pun that will shed more light, and probably inspire you to write your own pun;

  • A chicken crossing the road is truly a poultry in motion
  • I’ve been to the dentist many times, so i know the drill.
  • Always trust a glue salesman, they tend to stick to their words.
  • Gorilla warfare is more than just throwing a banana
  • A pessimist’s blood type is always B-negative.

8. Synecdoche;

A synecdoche is a member of the figurative family that uses a part to represent a whole or vice versa.

common figures of speech: synecdoche

It is a class of metonymy, often by means of either mentioning a part for a whole or a whole for a part.

It is derived from the greek phrases ‘synekdoche’ And ‘ekdechesthai’ meaning ‘to sense’ and ‘to understand’.

There are two types of synecdoche; microcosm in which smaller part describes a LARGER WHOLE and macrocosm in which a larger whole signifies a smaller part.

Examples include;

  • All hands on deck
  • Writing is my bread and butter
  • He is the sole breadwinner
  • The grey beard man

In synecdoche;

  • the word wheels refers to car
  • hand refers to helper
  • a gossip is reffered as wagging tongue
  • the phrase hired hands means workers

9. Rhetorical Question;

It is one in which the writer doesn’t expect a direct answer.

It might not have an answer and it might have an obvious answer it is used to emphasize a point or to present a challenge.

They are also called tag questions when used in daily life.

Common examples from daily life include;

  • who knows?
  • are you stupid?
  • ok?
  • why not?

Here are more examples of rhetorical questions;

  • Is rain wet?
  • Do you want to be a failure for the rest of your life?
  • Can fish swim?
  • Can birds fly?
  • Do dogs bark?

Conclusion on 9 Common Figures of Speech

The main purpose of figure of speech is to lend texture and colour to our writing.

Other figures of speech such as midioms and proverbs , allows a writer to draw on a rich cultural tradition and express complex ideas in a short pace.

Figures of speech are very important methods of communication in our society that specify between different shades of meaning and give more accurate descriptions.

This article “Common Figures of Speech” was written by Ali Khadija.

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