Figures of Speech in Literature

 – Figures of Speech in Literature –

Figures of Speech in Literature are expressions whose meanings are beyond ordinary interpretations. Thus, a literary writer uses them in order to add beauty to a work of art.

Figures of Speech in Literature

In this context, we are going to look at various figures of speech in literature and their examples.

Definition of Figures of Speech

Figures of speech are words or expressions that are not taken literally. In figures of speech, words combine to express meaning beyond their literal definition.

Some of them are discussed below.

List of Figures of Speech

There are thousands of figures of speech in Literature. However, we are going to limit our discussion to just a few below:

  1. Simile
  2. Metaphor
  3. Irony
  4. Personification
  5. Euphemism
  6. Hyperbole
  7. Oxymoron
  8. Apostrophe
  9. Antithesis
  10. Synecdoche
  11. Paradox
  12. Rhetorical question
  13. Metonymy
  14. Litotes
  15. Climax
  16. Anti-Climax
  17. Innuendo
  18. Sarcasm
  19. Eulogy
  20. Prolepsis
  21. Chiasmus
  22. Antonomasia
  23. Onomatopoeia
  24. Pun
  25. Allyson
  26. Parallelism.



This is a figure of speech that compares two things that differ in one way but are alike in other ways. It makes use of “like” and “as” in comparison.

Simile simply says that one thing is like the other. Examples:

1. Kingsley is as gentle as a dove.

2. She is as quiet as a cemetery.

3. He ran like a wounded lion in the race.


This is another form of comparison. It compares two things without the use of “as” and “like “.

The difference between simile and metaphor is that while simile says that something is like something else, metaphor says that something is automatically something.o

Examples of metaphorical statements are:

1. His heart is a stone.

2. Kingsley is a dove

3. She was a wounded lion in the race.


Euphemism is a figure of speech that refers to figurative language designed to replace words or phrases that would otherwise be considered harsh, impolite, or unpleasant. 


1. Last night, Joe’s grandfather passed away (died).

2. She was starting to feel over the hill (old).

3. Young adults are curious about the birds and bees (sex).

4. I need to powder my nose (go to the bathroom).

5. Our company has decided to let you go (fire you).


Personification is a figure of speech that attributes human characteristics to something that is not human. Examples of personification are:

1. I heard the wind whistling.

2. The water danced across my window.

3. My dog is telling me to start dinner.

4. The moon is smiling at me.

5. Her alarm hummed in the background.


Metonymy is meant for a change of name. It is a substitute for the thing names for the thing meant.

The following examples will clarify the concept.

1. The pen is mightier than the sword.

2. From the cradle to the grave. = from childhood to death.

3. I have never read Milton. = the works of Milton.


It is a direct address to some inanimate thing or some abstract idea as if it were a living person or some absent person as if it were present.

Example: Boy’s mother loved him very much.


Hyperbole is a statement made emphatic by overstatement.

For example, “Virtues as the sands of the shore.”


Synecdoche is the understanding of one thing by means of another.

Here, a part is used to designate the whole or the whole to designate a part.

For example, “I have the Viceroy, love the man.”, and “All hands (crew) at work.”


This consists of a play on the various meanings of a word. Its effect is often ludicrous. For example,

Is life worth living? It depends upon the liver.

Obviously, the constitution is against prostitution and congress is against progress. (con means against and pro means for).


It is a brief pointed saying. It couples words that apparently contradict each other.

The language of the epigram is remarkable for its brevity. Examples are as under:

1. The child is the father of the man. (Wordsworth)

2. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

3. The art lies in concealing art.

4. Silence is sometimes more eloquent than words.

5. Conspicuous by its absence.


In antithesis, a striking opposition or contrast of words is made in the same sentence in order to secure emphasis.

For example,

1. To err is human, to forgive divine.

2. Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.


It is a figure of speech that combines two seemingly contradictory or incongruous words for sharp emphasis or effect.

For example,

1. “darkness visible” (Milton);

2. “make haste slowly” (Suetonius)

3. “loving hate” (Romeo and Juliet)


It is the opposite of hyperbole. Here an affirmative is conveyed by the negation of the opposite.

For example,

1. He is no dullard.

2. I am not a little

3. He is not a bad sort.


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

For example,

1. “What a piece of work man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties!

2. In action, how like an angel!”


This is the opposite of the climax and signifies a ludicrous descent from the higher to the lower.

A man so various, that he seemed to be.

Not one, but all mankind’s epitome; who in the course of one revolving moon; was lawyer, statesman, fiddler, and buffoon.


The repetition of the same letter or syllable at the beginning of two or more words is called alliteration.

For example,

1. By apt Alliteration’s artful a

2. Glittering through the gloomy g

3. The furrow follows f.


The formation of a word whose sound is made to suggest or echo the sense as in cuckoo, bang, growl, hiss. Examples:

1. The moan of doves in immemorial elms and murmur of innumerable bees.

2. Rend with the tremendous sound your ears asunder with guns, drum, trumpet, blunderbuss, and thunder.


Irony simply means the opposite of what is intended. It is a stylistic way of expressing the exact opposite of what one has in mind.

Examples of ironic statements are:

1. No country is as good as Nigeria; its citizens are dying of hunger.

2. The man is very rich; to mend his shoes is even a problem.

3. Peter is intelligent indeed. This is his sixth year in JSS 1.


In conclusion, figures of speech are the artistic devices that make a literary work more interesting and possess a sense of beauty.

Nsikak Ekikor

Comments (3)

  1. Thanks again for the blog post.Much thanks again. Will read on…

    January 16, 2024 at 9:19 pm
  2. Incredible article! You have a talent for explaining complex topics in a way that’s easy to understand. I really appreciated the examples you used. They helped me grasp the concepts much better. Keep up the great work!

    February 19, 2024 at 3:34 am
  3. You have a real talent for writing content that’s both informative and enjoyable to read.

    February 22, 2024 at 10:55 am

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