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figure of speech

noun phrase

Definition of figure of speech, examples of figure of speech in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'figure of speech.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

1751, in the meaning defined above

Articles Related to figure of speech

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Dictionary Entries Near figure of speech

figure of merit

figure of the earth

Cite this Entry

“Figure of speech.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/figure%20of%20speech. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

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Kids definition of figure of speech, more from merriam-webster on figure of speech.

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about figure of speech

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Figure of Speech

Definition of figure of speech.

A figure of speech is a word or phrase that is used in a non-literal way to create an effect. This effect may be rhetorical as in the deliberate arrangement of words to achieve something poetic, or imagery as in the use of language to suggest a visual picture or make an idea more vivid. Overall, figures of speech function as literary devices because of their expressive use of language. Words are used in other ways than their literal meanings or typical manner of application.

For example, Margaret Atwood utilizes figures of speech in her poem “ you fit into me ” as a means of achieving poetic meaning and creating a vivid picture for the reader.

you fit into me like a hook into an eye a fish hook an open eye

The simile in the first two lines sets forth a comparison between the way “you” fits into the poet like a hook and eye closure for perhaps a garment. This is an example of rhetorical effect in that the wording carefully achieves the idea of two things meant to connect to each other. In the second two lines, the wording is clarified by adding “fish” to “hook” and “open” to “eye,” which calls forth an unpleasant and even violent image. The poet’s descriptions of hooks and eyes are not meant literally in the poem. Yet the use of figurative language allows the poet to express two very different meanings and images that enhance the interpretation of the poem through contrast .

Types of Figures of Speech

The term  figure of speech covers a wide range of literary devices, techniques, and other forms of figurative language, a few of which include:

Personification

Understatement.

  • Alliteration
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Circumlocution

Common Examples of Figures of Speech Used in Conversation

Many people use figures of speech in conversation as a way of clarifying or emphasizing what they mean. Here are some common examples of conversational figures of speech:

Hyperbole is a figure of speech that utilizes extreme exaggeration to emphasize a certain quality or feature.

  • I have a million things to do.
  • This suitcase weighs a ton.
  • This room is an ice-box.
  • I’ll die if he doesn’t ask me on a date.
  • I’m too poor to pay attention.

Understatement is a figure of speech that invokes less emotion than would be expected in reaction to something. This downplaying of reaction is a surprise for the reader and generally has the effect of showing irony .

  • I heard she has cancer, but it’s not a big deal.
  • Joe got his dream job, so that’s not too bad.
  • Sue won the lottery, so she’s a bit excited.
  • That condemned house just needs a coat of paint.
  • The hurricane brought a couple of rain showers with it.

A paradox is a figure of speech that appears to be self-contradictory but actually reveals something truthful.

  • You have to spend money to save it.
  • What I’ve learned is that I know nothing.
  • You have to be cruel to be kind.
  • Things get worse before they get better.
  • The only rule is to ignore all rules.

A pun is a figure of speech that contains a “ play ” on words, such as using words that mean one thing to mean something else or words that sound alike in as a means of changing meaning.

  • A sleeping bull is called a bull-dozer.
  • Baseball players eat on home plates.
  • Polar bears vote at the North Poll.
  • Fish are smart because they travel in schools.
  • One bear told another that life without them would be grizzly.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that connects two opposing ideas, usually in two-word phrases, to create a contradictory effect.

  • open secret
  • Alone together
  • controlled chaos
  • pretty ugly

Common Examples of Figure of Speech in Writing

Writers also use figures of speech in their work as a means of description or developing meaning. Here are some common examples of figures of speech used in writing:

Simile is a figure of speech in which two dissimilar things are compared to each other using the terms “like” or “as.”

  • She’s as pretty as a picture.
  • I’m pleased as punch.
  • He’s strong like an ox.
  • You are sly like a fox.
  • I’m happy as a clam.

A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two different things without the use of the terms “like” or “as.”

  • He is a fish out of water.
  • She is a star in the sky.
  • My grandchildren are the flowers of my garden.
  • That story is music to my ears.
  • Your words are a broken record.

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.

  • Last night , Joe’s grandfather passed away (died).
  • She was starting to feel over the hill (old).
  • Young adults are curious about the birds and bees (sex).
  • I need to powder my nose (go to the bathroom).
  • 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.

  • I heard the wind whistling.
  • The water danced across my window.
  • My dog is telling me to start dinner.
  • The moon is smiling at me.
  • Her alarm hummed in the background.

Writing Figure of Speech

As a literary device, figures of speech enhance the meaning of written and spoken words. In oral communication, figures of speech can clarify, enhance description, and create interesting use of language. In writing, when figures of speech are used effectively, these devices enhance the writer’s ability for description and expression so that readers have a better understanding of what is being conveyed.

It’s important that writers construct effective figures of speech so that the meaning is not lost for the reader. In other words, simple rearrangement or juxtaposition of words is not effective in the way that deliberate wording and phrasing are. For example, the hyperbole “I could eat a horse” is effective in showing great hunger by using figurative language. If a writer tried the hyperbole “I could eat a barn made of licorice,” the figurative language is ineffective and the meaning would be lost for most readers.

Here are some ways that writers benefit from incorporating figures of speech into their work:

Figure of Speech as Artistic Use of Language

Effective use of figures of speech is one of the greatest demonstrations of artistic use of language. Being able to create poetic meaning, comparisons, and expressions with these literary devices is how writers form art with words.

Figure of Speech as Entertainment for Reader

Effective figures of speech often elevate the entertainment value of a literary work for the reader. Many figures of speech invoke humor or provide a sense of irony in ways that literal expressions do not. This can create a greater sense of engagement for the reader when it comes to a literary work.

Figure of Speech as Memorable Experience for Reader

By using effective figures of speech to enhance description and meaning, writers make their works more memorable for readers as an experience. Writers can often share a difficult truth or convey a particular concept through figurative language so that the reader has a greater understanding of the material and one that lasts in memory.

Examples of Figure of Speech in Literature

Works of literature feature innumerable figures of speech that are used as literary devices. These figures of speech add meaning to literature and showcase the power and beauty of figurative language. Here are some examples of figures of speech in well-known literary works:

Example 1:  The Great Gatsby  (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

Fitzgerald makes use of simile here as a figure of speech to compare Gatsby’s party guests to moths. The imagery used by Fitzgerald is one of delicacy and beauty, and creates an ephemeral atmosphere . However, the likening of Gatsby’s guests to moths also reinforces the idea that they are only attracted to the sensation of the parties and that they will depart without having made any true impact or connection. This simile, as a figure of speech, underscores the themes of superficiality and transience in the novel .

Example 2:  One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Both described at the same time how it was always March there and always Monday, and then they understood that José Arcadio Buendía was not as crazy as the family said, but that he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the truth of the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room.

In this passage, Garcia Marquez utilizes personification as a figure of speech. Time is personified as an entity that “stumbled” and “had accidents.” This is an effective use of figurative language in that this personification of time indicates a level of human frailty that is rarely associated with something so measured. In addition, this is effective in the novel as a figure of speech because time has a great deal of influence on the plot and characters of the story. Personified in this way, the meaning of time in the novel is enhanced to the point that it is a character in and of itself.

Example 3:  Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?

In this passage, Bradbury utilizes metaphor as a figure of speech to compare a book to a loaded gun. This is an effective literary device for this novel because, in the story, books are considered weapons of free thought and possession of them is illegal. Of course, Bradbury is only stating that a book is a loaded gun as a means of figurative, not literal meaning. This metaphor is particularly powerful because the comparison is so unlikely; books are generally not considered to be dangerous weapons. However, the comparison does have a level of logic in the context of the story in which the pursuit of knowledge is weaponized and criminalized.

Related posts:

  • Speech: “Is this a dagger which I see before me

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  • Literary Terms
  • Figures of Speech
  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Use Figures of Speech

I. What are Figures of Speech?

A figure of speech is a word or phrase using figurative language—language that has other meaning than its normal definition. In other words, figures of speeches rely on implied or suggested meaning, rather than a dictionary definition.  We express and develop them through hundreds of different rhetorical techniques, from specific types like metaphors and similes , to more general forms like sarcasm and slang.

Figures of speech make up a huge portion of the English language, making it more creative, more expressive, and just more interesting! Many have been around for hundreds of years—some even thousands—and more are added to our language essentially every day. This article will focus on a few key forms of figures of speech, but remember, the types are nearly endless!

III. Types of Figure of Speech

There are countless figures of speech in every language, and they fall into hundreds of categories. Here, though, is a short list of some of the most common types of figure of speech:

A. Metaphor

Many common figures of speech are metaphors. That is, they use words in a manner other than their literal meaning. However, metaphors use figurative language to make comparisons between unrelated things or ideas. The “peak of her career,” for example, is a metaphor, since a career is not a literal mountain with a peak , but the metaphor represents the idea of arriving at the highest point of one’s career.

An idiom is a common phrase with a figurative meaning. Idioms are different from other figures of speech in that their figurative meanings are mostly known within a particular language, culture, or group of people. In fact, the English language alone has about 25,000 idioms. Some examples include “it’s raining cats and dogs” when it is raining hard, or “break a leg” when wishing someone good luck.

This sentence uses an idiom to make it more interesting:

There’s a supermarket and a pharmacy in the mall, so if we go there, we can kill two birds with one stone.

The idiom is a common way of saying that two tasks can be completed in the same amount of time or same place.

A proverb is a short, commonplace saying that is universally understood in today’s language and used to express general truths. “Don’t cry over spilt milk” is a popular example. Most proverbs employ metaphors (e.g. the proverb about milk isn’t  literally  about milk).

This example uses a proverb to emphasize the situation:

I know you think you’re going to sell all of those cookies, but don’t count your chickens before they hatch!

Here, “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” means that you shouldn’t act like something has happened before it actually does.

A simile is a very common figure of speech that uses the words “like” and “as” to compare two things that are not related by definition. For example, “he is as tall as a mountain,” doesn’t mean he was actually 1,000 feet tall, it just means he was really tall.

This example uses a simile for comparison:

The internet is like a window to the world —you can learn about everything online!

The common phrase “window to the world” refers to a hypothetical window that lets you see the whole world from it. So, saying the internet is like a window to the world implies that it lets you see anything and everything.

E. Oxymoron

An oxymoron is when you use two words together that have contradictory meanings. Some common examples include s mall crowd, definitely possible, old news, little giant , and so on.

A metonym is a word or phrase that is used to represent something related to bigger meaning. For example, fleets are sometimes described as being “thirty sails strong,” meaning thirty (curiously, this metonym survives in some places, even when the ships in question are not sail-powered!) Similarly, the crew on board those ships may be described as “hands” rather than people.

Irony is when a word or phrase’s literal meaning is the opposite of its figurative meaning. Many times (but not always), irony is expressed with sarcasm (see Related Terms). For example, maybe you eat a really bad cookie, and then say “Wow, that was the best cookie I ever had”—of course, what you really mean is that it’s the worst cookie you ever had, but being ironic actually emphasizes just how bad it was!

IV. The Importance of Figures of Speech

In general, the purpose of a figure of speech is to lend texture and color to your writing. (This is itself a figure of speech, since figures of speech don’t actually change the colors or textures on the page!) For instance, metaphors allow you to add key details that make the writing more lively and relatable. Slang and verbal irony, on the other hand, make the writing seem much more informal and youthful (although they can have the opposite effect when misused!) Finally, other figures of speech, like idioms and proverbs, allows a writer to draw on a rich cultural tradition and express complex ideas in a short space.

V. Examples of Figures of Speech in Literature

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.” (William Shakespeare, As You Like It)

This is one of the most famous metaphors ever crafted in the English language. Shakespeare uses his extended metaphor to persuade the audience of the similarities between the stage and real life. But rather than making his play seem more like life, he suggests that life is more like a play. His metaphor calls attention to the performative, creative, and fictional aspects of human life.

“Our words are b ut crumbs that fall down from the feast o f the mind.” (Khalil Gibran, Sand & Foam )

Gibran’s timeless metaphor succeeds for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is not a cliché – had Gibran said “words are just the tip of the iceberg ,” he would have been making roughly the same point, but in a much more clichéd way. But the feast of the mind is a highly original metaphor. In addition, it’s a successful double metaphor. The crumbs and the feast are two parts of the same image, but they work together rather than being “mixed” (see How to Use Figures of Speech ).

“If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.” (Russian Proverb)

Like many proverbs, this one draws on a simple metaphor of chasing rabbits. The rabbits can stand in for all sorts of objectives, from jobs to relationships, but the coded message is quite clear – focus your energy on a single objective, or you will likely fail. This literal statement, though, is quite dry and not terribly memorable, which shows the power of figures of speech.

VI. Examples of Figures of Speech in Pop Culture

The chorus to Sean Kingston’s Fire Burning contains a couple of figures of speech. First of all, there’s the word “shorty” used as a slang term (see Related Terms ) for a young woman. She may or may not be literally short, but the figure of speech applies either way (though it could easily be taken as belittling and derogatory). Second, Kingston sings the metaphor: “she’s fire, burning on the dance floor.” Hopefully this is a figure of speech and not a literal statement; otherwise, Kingston and everyone else in the club are in mortal danger!

“Oh, thanks! This is much better!” (Townspeople, South Park )

This is an example of irony. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, South Park satirized the government’s response to the disaster by writing about a similar disaster in South Park. In a bumbling effort to rescue people from the floods, the authorities accidentally spill oil on the flood waters and set it on fire, making the situation far more dangerous. In response, they ironically “thank” the people responsible—their meaning is obviously the opposite of their words!

Years of talks between Washington and Havana resulted in Obama’s historic visit to Cuba on March 21st. (Patreon 2016)

This is a common form of metonym in foreign policy and news media. The capital city of a country is used as a metonym for the national government. The talks, of course, are not literally between these two cities, but between the leaders and government officials of the two countries (US and Cuba).

VII. Related Terms

Literal and figurative language.

Language is generally divided into two categories: literal, and figurative. Literal language relies on the real definition of words and phrases, or their literal meanings. Figurative language, on the other hand, relies on implied meanings, which can be understood differently depending on the location or who is using it. For example, “the sky is blue” relies on the literal definition of the word “blue,” while “I am feeling blue” relies on the figurative definition. All figures of speech rely on the use of figurative language for their meaning.

Sarcasm is mocking or bitter language that we use to express different meaning than what we say; often the exact opposite. When your intended meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning, that’s irony (another type of figure of speech), which includes common phrases like “Oh, great…” when you really mean something is bad.

Slang is language that uses atypical words and phrases to express specific meanings. It varies greatly by region, demographic, and language—for example, you would find different slang in the U.S. and in the U.K. even though they are both English speaking countries. Likewise, teenagers and the elderly will use different slang terms, as would Spanish and English. Many slang terms are figures of speech. For example, “bro” could be used to describe a friend rather than an actual brother; this would be using the word as a figure of speech.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
  • Cite This Website

Cambridge Dictionary

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Meaning of figure of speech in English

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  • allegorically
  • anthropomorphic
  • anthropomorphize
  • figuratively
  • metaphorical
  • mixed metaphor
  • non-literal
  • non-metaphorical
  • so to speak idiom
  • unironically

You can also find related words, phrases, and synonyms in the topics:

a figure of speech | Intermediate English

A figure of speech, examples of figure of speech, translations of figure of speech.

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Figure of Speech

What is a figure of speech.

  • Jack has a few skeletons in the cupboard .
  • You are driving me up the wall .

The Seven Most Common Figures of Speech

Table of Contents

Examples of Figures of Speech

Metaphors used as figures of speech, similes used as figures of speech, personification used as figures of speech, hyperbole used as figures of speech, idioms used as figures of speech, euphemisms used as figures of speech, metonyms used as figures of speech, a broader definition of figure of speech.

Why Figures of Speech Are Important

definition of figure of speech with examples

  • This bedroom is a prison.
  • He's a real gannet.
  • He listened with a stone face.
  • We don't need dinosaurs in this company.
  • He eats like a gannet.
  • This sandwich tastes like sawdust between two doormats.
  • She sings like an angel.
  • It's like water off a duck's back.
  • The tide waits for no man.
  • My car tends to give up on long hills.
  • Summer's healing rays
  • I have a million problems.
  • We won a tonne of cash.
  • I'll die if I don't finish this crossword.
  • Be careful not to miss the boat.
  • This is the last straw.
  • You can't pull the wool over my eyes.
  • Don't sit on the fence. Say what you mean.
  • kicked the bucket = has died
  • knocked up = is pregnant
  • letting you go = you're fired
  • lost his marbles = is mad
  • Tongue = language
  • Sweat = hard work.
  • Capitol Hill = American seat of government
  • took to the bottle = took to alcohol
  • my word = my promise
  • a suit = business executive, a lawyer (typically)
  • Figure of speech: the use of words in an unusual or imaginative manner.

Alliteration

  • The plate was filled with b eautiful b uns b ursting with b erries.
  • The squ ea ky wh ee l gets the gr ea se.
  • I will pi ck or cra ck the lo ck .

Logosglyphs

  • She had eyes like pools .

Onomatopoeia

  • The NASA humans-to-Mars program is all sizzle and no steak.
  • During interphase, the protein binds to DNA with its elbow and then digs in with its fingers during mitosis. (Professor Leonie Ringrose)
  • Team, we must throw a party in our guests' mouths. Got it? Yes, chef. Yes, chef. Yes, chef. Yes, Geoff. Did someone just call me Geoff? (Comedian Chris Wells)
  • Use a figure of speech to express an idea more clearly or more interestingly.

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The Idioms

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Figure of Speech

Figures of Speech

Meaning | Definition

A figure of speech is a phrase or word used in a non-literal sense for rhetorical or rich effect. It is an expression that is different from its literal meaning.

A figure of speech is a way of describing something or someone interestingly and vividly. The words or phrases may not mean exactly what they suggest, but they paint a clear picture in the mind of the reader or listener. A figure of speech can be in the form of a phrase or a single word. The figures of speech are also knowns as rhetorical figures.

Figure of speech is easier to understand than an idiom as you do not have to be familiar with the language to decipher it. Every language has its figures of speech and idioms that are own to that language. They are used to make writing more interesting.

There are many types of figures of speech in the English language, but we are going to learn the most common types.

All Types of Figure of Speech List

Alliteration, personification, onomatopoeia, rhetorical questions, three part list (rule of three), circumlocution (or periphrasis), irony – (sarcasm), parentheses, exclamation, interrogation, transferred epithets.

Alliteration is a figure of speech in which two usually consecutive words begin with the same consonant sound but not always the same latter.

The word doesn’t always have to be right next to each other, but when you say or read them, the sound is repeated.

For example, four fabulous fish and go and gather the flowers on the grass .

Alliteration helps us to make what we say or write more interesting to listen to or read. Writers and poets use alliteration to make their writing memorable and fun to read. Read the list of alliterative phrases below.

Alliteration Examples

  • cold coffee
  • happy Harry
  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
  • She sells sea shells on the sea shore
  • Becky’s beagle barked and bayed, which bothered Billy
  • Donald Duck
  • Jackrabbits jump and jiggle jauntily

There are many, many more you will see – and many new ones you can make up – as you do the practice.

We use metaphors all the time. Suppose when your Mummy says, “This house is a zoo!” she doesn’t mean that it is the place where animal lives. She just means that everyone in the house is as noisy as a bunch of animals would be.

She’s using the zoo as a metaphor for the house, she’s describing the house as if were a zoo, to make the comparison clear.

It’s great fun to use metaphors because they make what we say more colourful and people can understand what we are trying to tell them better.

Metaphors Examples

Look at this list of metaphors and what they mean. It will get you started.

  • dirty pig – very filthy
  • having two left feet – very bad dancer
  • to get cold feet – to become nervous
  • to be an early bird – to reach first or earliest
  • pearls of wisdom – wise words

Personification is giving human qualities to something that may not be human, or even alive.

For example, when you say: “The flowers nodded their head cheerfully.”

What you mean here is that the flowers moved about in the wind looking as if they were cheerful and happy. You’re imagining that  the flowers have human emotions.

Personification Examples

  • laughing flowers
  • howling wind
  • smiling sun
  • opportunity knocking at the door

This is a big word that just means words that imitate sounds. Pitter-patter is an example of onomatopoeia. It mimics the sound of rain or maybe little feet.

The word tinkle is also onomatopoeia. It mimics the sound of a bell or falling water.

We use onomatopoeia all the time in our everyday speech. Poets and writers use this figure of speech to make their writing more expressive too.

Onomatopoeia Examples

A simile is a figure of speech in which two things are directly compared. We use the word like or as to make the comparison.

  • as dark as the night
  • as cool as a cucumber
  • fought like cats and dogs
  • eat like a horse

The four phrases above are all similes. The beauty of a simile is that it helps us imagine clearly what the writer is trying to say. Poets and writers use similes to make their writing come alive.

Similes Examples

  • as blind as a bat
  • as bold as brass
  • as bright as a button
  • as black as coal
  • as clear as crystal
  • as cold as ice

An oxymoron brings two conflicting ideas together. We use them to draw attention from the reader/listener. Two words with apparently contradictory meanings are combined to form a new word that is more in conjunction.

Oxymoron Examples

  • alone together
  • deafening silence
  • bittersweet
  • living dead

Hyperbole means using exaggerated statements for effect . The media and politicians often use hyperbole to make their articles or speeches more attention grabbing or seem more important bigger, better and more interesting.

Hyperbole Examples

  • I have told you a million times not to get your shoes dirty.
  • Jake’s mum always cooks enough food to feed an army.
  • What have you got in this suitcase; it weighs a ton?
  • I am so hungry I could eat a horse.

This is when a phrase is overused and loses impact and lacks original thought. Using a cliche can be seen as old fashioned or even a sign of poor writing as they are expressions that have been used too often and are no longer relevant or interesting.

Cliché Examples

  • A women’s place is in the kitchen.
  • And they all lived happily ever after.
  • All that glitters is not gold .
  • All is fair in love and war .

Repetition is when a word or phrase is repeated for effect or emphasis . Teachers often teach things like times tables by repetition and musicians repeat choruses in songs. A good example is Martin Luther King’s – ‘I have a dream’ speech.

Repetition Examples

  • I’m telling you I won’t do it; I simply won’t do it.
  • Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
  • He told me about it, years and years and years ago.
  • Home sweet home.

This type of question doesn’t require an answer as it has been phrased in a way that assumes the reader or listener knows the answer. Public speakers and politicians use rhetorical questions for dramatic effect or to get a point across and not because they expect an answer. The answer is usually obvious, or they think it is.

Rhetorical Question Examples

  • Can pigs fly ?
  • Is the Pope a Catholic?
  • Is this supposed to be some kind of joke?
  • We don’t need any more failure, do we?

These are commonly used in advertising and speeches to grab attention and give emphasis . Three parts seems more comprehensive and knowledgeable than two it seems.

Three Part List Examples

  • Snap, crackle and pop.
  • I came, I saw, I conquered. (Veni, vidi, vici – Julius Caesar)
  • I put my blood, sweat and tears into that project.
  • Hear all, see all, say nowt (nothing).

This is when words have a similar ending sound . It is usually seen most often in poetry and song lyrics but is also in advertising and public speeches. The rhyming words stand out.

Rhyme Examples

  • Try before you buy.
  • Birds of a feather, stick together.
  • Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo.

A euphemism is an indirect or innocuous word or phrase used instead of something considered unpleasant, harsh or sensitive, or embarrassing. It is often intended to amuse or downplay something that the speaker deems offensive or upsetting somehow. They may be used to cover profanity or sensitive subjects such as gender, disability, and death in a polite manner.

Euphemism Examples

  • Friendly fire (attack from allied forces)
  • He is telling us a tall story (a lie)
  • Senior citizen (old person)
  • Staff restructure (making people redundant)

Litotes is an understatement , usually involving a hint of irony. Instead of saying something simple or obvious, a phrase contrary to the truth is used.

Litotes Examples

  • It’s hardly rocket science is it? (often said when a task is very simple)
  • The weather isn’t so good today. (Said during a thunder-storm)
  • She’s no spring chicken. (meaning someone is not young)
  • He’s not exactly a beggar. (He’s financially solvent)

Circumlocution (also called circumduction, circumvolution, periphrasis, kenning or ambage) is the unnecessary use of many words , when fewer would be more appropriate. An idea or subject is circled, talked around, or avoided altogether instead of directly referencing it.

Circumlocution Examples

  • I work 9am to 2pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. (I work part time)
  • He resides in a refurbished Victorian establishment on the edge of town. (He lives in a terraced house)
  • Our Lord in heaven, the holy father. (God)
  • The vehicle that I own is a fabulous shade of metallic dark turquoise. (My car is blue)

It is saying the same thing twice using different words. It is a way of adding emphasis or clarity but can come across as being unnecessarily wordy.

Tautology Examples

  • Sally told everyone with pride that she had made the handmade sweater herself .
  • The kids always take turns to answer the questions one after the other .
  • She’s in the middle of reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography about her life story .
  • They climbed up to the top of Kilimanjaro all the way to the summit.

Pun is a play on words as it is usually a jokey way of exploiting the fact that some words sound alike or have more than one meaning or spelling. They rely heavily on homophones and homonyms to work.

Pun Examples

  • The chicken farmers favourite car is a coupe.
  • He’s been to see his dentist so many times now that he knows the drill.
  • I’ve forgotten where my wife said we were going, don’t worry, Alaska.
  • The cyclist was two tired to win the race.

An epigram is a clever, witty, or satirical phrase or line of poetry. It is usually expressing an ingenious, paradoxical, memorable, or amusing idea.

Epigram Examples

  • I can resist everything but temptation – Oscar Wilde
  • There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
  • Winners never quit, and quitters never win.
  • For most of history, Anonymous was a woman – Virginia Woolf

This is from the Greek word klimax, meaning staircase or ladder. In narrative the words or clauses are arranged to build tension or drama to a peak (main part of the story) and get the undivided attention of the audience. The reader is mentally preparing for the climax of the story as the conflict or tension rises and finally reaches resolution.

Most films, books, plays or anecdotes have conflict/drama which reaches a climax and then is resolved by the end of the narrative.

Climax Examples

  • Titanic – Think of the rising tension as the ship hits the ice-burg and starts to sink. The water everywhere and people screaming, running trying to save themselves or find family members. The intrigue builds until finally the ship slips below the surface and there is shock and disbelief at the sad a sorry, survivors left floating above.
  • Martin Luther King – His ‘I have a dream speech’ builds in tension and reaches this climax:- A promise that all men, yes black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
  • Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has many plot twists and rising tension in the form of family conflicts, love, murder, and finally death.

A subtle form of humour involving words opposing to what is actually meant. Irony can fall into three categories.

Verbal irony – Saying one thing and meaning something else, usually the opposite of what is said. Example :  Saying that you couldn’t possibly eat another thing, then reaching for some more cake.

Dramatic irony – This is when the audience is more aware of the plotline than the characters. Example : In Shakespeare’s Macbeth – While Duncan thinks Macbeth is faithful to him, Macbeth is actually plotting to murder him. The audience knows this, but Duncan doesn’t.

Situational irony – This is when something happens that is completely contrary to what is expected. Often with an element of shock or surprise. Example : winning the lottery and dying the day after. (Listen to Ironic by Alanis Morrisette for many more examples)

This is the exact opposite of something or when two things contrast greatly.

Antithesis Examples

  • One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind – Neil Armstrong 1969
  • Many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:14
  • It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. – Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

Assonance is the repetition of the same vowel sounds in a phrase or sentence.

Assonance Examples

  • W e rec ei ved thr ee e mails ea ch w ee k.
  • The r ai n in Sp ai n, st a ys m ai nly on the pl ai n. (From the musical ‘My Fair Lady’)
  • Hear the m e llow w e dding b e lls. (The Bells – Edgar Allen Poe)

Consonance is the repetition of the same consonant sound in a phrase or sentence.

Consonance Examples

  • The rain pitter pattered in the puddle.
  • The cook cooked the cutest cupcakes.
  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

Anastrophe is a deliberate change of normal word order for emphasis.

Anastrophe Examples

  • The greatest teacher, failure is. – Yoda (Star Wars)
  • Into the lake the jeep drove.
  • One swallow a summer does not make.

A logosglyph is a word that looks like what it represents .

Logosglyph Examples

  • She had eyes like pools . (The word eye looks like a pair of eyes with a ‘y’ for a nose and the double ‘oo’ in pools actually looks round like eyes and pools)
  • The word bed actually looks like a bed.

A way of comparing things based on ways they are similar. This is to show the similarity without explaining.

Analogy Examples

  • Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. (From Forrest Gump)
  • He is strong as an ox.
  • She’s as quiet as a mouse.

Paradox is a statement containing two opposing facts that seems impossible, contradictory or absurd but might turn out to be true.

Paradox Examples

  • I must be cruel, only to be kind—Hamlet by Shakespeare.
  • Nobody goes to the seaside at the weekend, because it’s too crowded.
  • Youth is wasted on the young.

Something that is added to a statement to provide extra information or an explanation. This is often separated from the main clause by brackets, commas, or dashes.

Parentheses Examples

  • His older brother, the one with six kids, will be visiting next week.
  • Sean Mullins (last year’s winner) is the current favourite to win.
  • The singer – and her backing band – arrived two hours late.

A statement punctuated with an exclamation mark is conveying strong emotion or excitement.

Exclamation Examples

  • Ouch! That really hurt!
  • You just made me jump out of my skin!
  • It’s a girl!

This is a sentence that asks a direct question and is punctuated with a question mark.

Interrogation Examples

  • What is the capital of Canada?
  • Shall we invite the neighbours around for a barbeque tomorrow?
  • Where are my car keys?

This is when a part of something is used instead of the whole.

Synecdoche Examples

  • He took us for a spin in his new wheels. (Wheels = car)
  • There are hundreds of boots on the ground searching for the fugitives. (Boots = soldiers or police)
  • There was no comment from The White House . (The White House = The President)

Metonymy replaces a word or phrase with something related or associated to it.

Metonymy Examples

  • Have you seen the latest Hollywood blockbuster? (Hollywood = the whole of the film industry)
  • The crown is not able to take political a side. (crown = the queen or royal family)
  • The press is going to have a field day. (press = all news organizations)

Dialect is the way people talk in a particular region. In literature, this involves representing speech in the way it actually sounds with phonetic spelling, missing words, and unusual grammar.

Dialect Examples

  • I told ‘er she wer wrong, innit?  (I told her she was wrong, didn’t I?)
  • Howdy Y’all!  (Hello everybody!)
  • Am gonna nae do that. (I’m not going to do that)

It is when we combine an incongruous adverb or adjective with an incongruous noun .

Transferred Epithets Examples

  • They got divorced after years in an unhappy marriage .
  • I balanced a thoughtful lump of sugar on the teaspoon. – P. G. Woodhouse.
  • The farmer plodded along the weary lane .

Origin of Figure of Speech

Every figure of speech has a different origin. It is not clear where the phrase “figure of speech” comes from. The earliest use of figures of speech is found in the Bible, so it is clear that they have been around for hundreds of years. The most commonly used ones in the Bible are similes. This means that one thing is used in place of another. For example, ‘God is light.’

a figure speech meaning

Figurative Language

a figure speech meaning

Figurative Language Definition

What is figurative language? Here’s a quick and simple definition:

Figurative language is language that contains or uses figures of speech . When people use the term "figurative language," however, they often do so in a slightly narrower way. In this narrower definition, figurative language refers to language that uses words in ways that deviate from their literal interpretation to achieve a more complex or powerful effect. This view of figurative language focuses on the use of figures of speech that play with the meaning of words, such as metaphor , simile , personification , and hyperbole .

Some additional key details about figurative language:

  • Figurative language is common in all sorts of writing, as well as in spoken language.
  • Figurative language refers to language that contains figures of speech, while figures of speech are the particular techniques. If figurative speech is like a dance routine, figures of speech are like the various moves that make up the routine.
  • It's a common misconception that imagery, or vivid descriptive language, is a kind of figurative language. In fact, writers can use figurative language as one tool to help create imagery, but imagery does not have to use figurative language.

Figurative Language Pronunciation

Here's how to pronounce figurative language: fig -yer-uh-tiv lang -gwij

Figures of Speech and Figurative Language

To fully understand figurative language, it's helpful to have a basic understanding of figures of speech. More specifically, it's helpful to understand the two main types of figures of speech: tropes and schemes .

  • Tropes are figures of speech that play with and shift the expected and literal meaning of words.
  • Schemes are figures of speech that involve a change from the typical mechanics of a sentence, such as the order, pattern, or arrangement of words.

Put even more simply: tropes play with the meaning of words, while schemes play with the structure of words, phrases, and sentences.

The Different Things People Mean When They Say Figurative Language

When people say figurative language, they don't always mean the precise same thing. Here are the three different ways people usually talk about figurative language:

  • Dictionary definition of figurative language: According to the dictionary, figurative language is simply any language that contains or uses figures of speech. This definition would mean that figurative language includes the use of both tropes and schemes.
  • Much more common real world use of figurative language: However, when people (including teachers) refer to figurative language, they usually mean language that plays with the literal meaning of words. This definition sees figurative language as language that primarily involves the use of tropes.
  • Another common real world use of figurative language: Some people define figurative language as including figures of speech that play with meaning as well as a few other common schemes that affect the rhythm and sound of text, such as alliteration and assonance .

What does all that boil down to for you? If you hear someone talking about figurative language, you can usually safely assume they are referring to language that uses figures of speech to play with the meaning of words and, perhaps, with the way that language sounds or feels.

Common Types of Figurative Language

There are many, many types of figures of speech that can be involved in figurative language. Some of the most common are:

  • Metaphor : A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unrelated things by stating that one thing is another thing, even though this isn't literally true. For example, the phrase "her lips are a blooming rose" obviously doesn't literally mean what it says—it's a metaphor that makes a comparison between the red beauty and promise of a blooming rose with that of the lips of the woman being described.
  • Simile : A simile, like a metaphor, makes a comparison between two unrelated things. However, instead of stating that one thing is another thing (as in metaphor), a simile states that one thing is like another thing. An example of a simile would be to say "they fought like cats and dogs."
  • Oxymoron : An oxymoron pairs contradictory words in order to express new or complex meanings. In the phrase "parting is such sweet sorrow" from Romeo and Juliet , "sweet sorrow" is an oxymoron that captures the complex and simultaneous feelings of pain and pleasure associated with passionate love.
  • Hyperbole : Hyperbole is an intentional exaggeration of the truth, used to emphasize the importance of something or to create a comic effect. An example of a hyperbole is to say that a backpack "weighs a ton." No backpack literally weighs a ton, but to say "my backpack weighs ten pounds" doesn't effectively communicate how burdensome a heavy backpack feels.
  • Personification : In personification, non-human things are described as having human attributes, as in the sentence, "The rain poured down on the wedding guests, indifferent to their plans." Describing the rain as "indifferent" is an example of personification, because rain can't be "indifferent," nor can it feel any other human emotion.
  • Idiom : An idiom is a phrase that, through general usage within a particular group or society, has gained a meaning that is different from the literal meaning of the words. The phrase "it's raining cats and dogs" is known to most Americans to mean that it's raining hard, but an English-speaking foreigner in the United States might find the phrase totally confusing.
  • Onomatopoeia : Onomatopoeia is a figure of speech in which words evoke the actual sound of the thing they refer to or describe. The “boom” of a firework exploding, the “tick tock” of a clock, and the “ding dong” of a doorbell are all examples of onomatopoeia.
  • Synecdoche : In synecdoche, a part of something is used to refer to its whole . For example, "The captain commands one hundred sails" is a synecdoche that uses "sails" to refer to ships—ships being the thing of which a sail is a part.
  • Metonymy : Metonymy is a figure of speech in which an object or concept is referred to not by its own name, but instead by the name of something closely associated with it. For example, in "Wall Street prefers lower taxes," the New York City street that was the original home of the New York Stock Exchange stands in for (or is a "metonym" for) the entire American financial industry.
  • Alliteration : In alliteration, the same sound repeats in a group of words, such as the “ b ” sound in: “ B ob b rought the b ox of b ricks to the b asement.” Alliteration uses repetition to create a musical effect that helps phrases to stand out from the language around them.
  • Assonance : The repetition of vowel sounds repeat in nearby words, such as the " ee " sound: "the squ ea ky wh ee l gets the gr ea se." Like alliteration, assonance uses repeated sounds to create a musical effect in which words echo one another.

Figurative Language vs. Imagery

Many people (and websites) argue that imagery is a type of figurative language. That is actually incorrect. Imagery refers to a writers use of vivid and descriptive language to appeal to the reader's senses and more deeply evoke places, things, emotions, and more. The following sentence uses imagery to give the reader a sense of how what is being described looks, feels, smells, and sounds:

The night was dark and humid, the scent of rotting vegetation hung in the air, and only the sound of mosquitoes broke the quiet of the swamp.

This sentence uses no figurative language. Every word means exactly what it says, and the sentence is still an example of the use of imagery. That said, imagery can use figurative language, often to powerful effect:

The night was dark and humid, heavy with a scent of rotting vegetation like a great-aunt's heavy and inescapable perfume, and only the whining buzz of mosquitoes broke the silence of the swamp.

In this sentence, the description has been made more powerful through the use of a simile ("like a great-aunt's..."), onomatopoeia ("whining buzz," which not only describes but actually sounds like the noise made by mosquitoes), and even a bit of alliteration in the " s ilence of the s wamp."

To sum up: imagery is not a form of figurative language. But a writer can enhance his or her effort to write imagery through the use of figurative language.

Figurative Language Examples

Figurative language is more interesting, lively, beautiful, and memorable than language that's purely literal. Figurative language is found in all sorts of writing, from poetry to prose to speeches to song lyrics, and is also a common part of spoken speech. The examples below show a variety of different types of figures of speech. You can see many more examples of each type at their own specific LitChart entries.

Figurative Language Example: Metaphor

Metaphor in shakespeare's romeo and juliet.

In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet , Romeo uses the following metaphor in Act 2 Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet , after sneaking into Juliet's garden and catching a glimpse of her on her balcony:

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Romeo compares Juliet to the sun not only to describe how radiantly beautiful she is, but also to convey the full extent of her power over him. He's so taken with Juliet that her appearances and disappearances affect him like those of the sun. His life "revolves" around Juliet like the earth orbits the sun.

Figurative Language Example: Simile

In this example of a simile from Slaughterhouse-Five , Billy Pilgrim emerges from an underground slaughterhouse where he has been held prisoner by the Germans during the deadly World War II firebombing of Dresden:

It wasn't safe to come out of the shelter until noon the next day. When the Americans and their guards did come out, the sky was black with smoke. The sun was an angry little pinhead. Dresden was like the moon now , nothing but minerals. The stones were hot. Everybody else in the neighborhood was dead.

Vonnegut uses simile to compare the bombed city of Dresden to the moon in order to capture the totality of the devastation—the city is so lifeless that it is like the barren moon.

Figurative Language Example: Oxymoron

These lines from Chapter 7 of Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls describe an encounter between Robert Jordan, a young American soldier fighting in the Spanish Civil War, and his lover María.

She held herself tight to him and her lips looked for his and then found them and were against them and he felt her, fresh, new and smooth and young and lovely with the warm, scalding coolness and unbelievable to be there in the robe that was as familiar as his clothes, or his shoes, or his duty and then she said, frightenedly, “And now let us do quickly what it is we do so that the other is all gone.”

The couple's relationship becomes a bright spot for both of them in the midst of war, but ultimately also a source of pain and confusion for Jordan, as he struggles to balance his obligation to fight with his desire to live happily by Maria's side. The contradiction contained within the oxymoron "scalding coolness" emphasizes the couple's conflicting emotions and impossible situation.

Figurative Language Example: Hyperbole

Elizabeth Bennet, the most free-spirited character in Pride and Prejudice , refuses Mr. Darcy's first marriage proposal with a string of hyperbole :

From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.

Elizabeth's closing statement, that Darcy is the "last man in the world" whom she would ever marry, is an obvious hyperbole. It's hard to believe that Elizabeth would rather marry, say, an axe murderer or a diseased pirate than Mr. Darcy. Even beyond the obvious exaggeration, Austen's use of hyperbole in this exchange hints at the fact that Elizabeth's feelings for Darcy are more complicated than she admits, even to herself. Austen drops various hints throughout the beginning of the novel that Elizabeth feels something beyond mere dislike for Darcy. Taken together with these hints, Elizabeth's hyperbolic statements seem designed to convince not only Darcy, but also herself, that their relationship has no future.

Figurative Language Example: Personification

In Chapter 1 of The Scarlet Letter , Nathaniel Hawthorne describes a wild rose bush that grows in front of Salem's gloomy wooden jail:

But, on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rose-bush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him.

In the context of the novel's setting in 17th century Boston, this rose bush, which grows wild in front of an establishment dedicated to enforcing harsh puritan values, symbolizes those elements of human nature that cannot be repressed, no matter how strict a community's moral code may be: desire, fertility, and a love of beauty. By personifying the rosebush as "offering" its blossoms to reflect Nature's pity (Nature is also personified here as having a "heart"), Hawthorne turns the passive coincidence of the rosebush's location into an image of human nature actively resisting its constraints.

Figurative Language Example: Idiom

Figurative language example: onomatopoeia.

In Act 3, Scene 3 of Shakespeare's The Tempest , Caliban uses onomatopoeia to convey the noises of the island.

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises, Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices...

The use of onomatopoeia makes the audience feel the sounds on the island, rather than just have to take Caliban's word about there being noises.

Figurative Language Example: Synecdoche

In Act 4, Scene 3 of Shakespeare's Macbeth , an angry Macbeth kicks out a servant by saying:

Take thy face hence.

Here, "thy face" stands in for "you." Macbeth is simply telling the servant to leave, but his use of synecdoche makes the tone of his command more harsh and insulting because he uses synecdoche to treat the servant not as a person but as an object, a body part.

Figurative Language Example: Metonymy

In his song "Juicy," Notorious B.I.G. raps:

Now I'm in the limelight 'cause I rhyme tight

Here he's using "limelight" as a metonymy for fame (a "limelight" was a kind of spotlight used in old theaters, and so it came to be associated with the fame of being in the spotlight). Biggie's use of metonymy here also sets him up for a sweet rhyme.

Figurative Language Example: Alliteration

In his song "Rap God," Eminem shows his incredible lyrical dexterity by loading up the alliteration :

S o I wanna make sure, s omewhere in this chicken s cratch I S cribble and doodle enough rhymes T o maybe t ry t o help get s ome people through t ough t imes But I gotta k eep a few punchlines Just in c ase, ‘ c ause even you un s igned Rappers are hungry l ooking at me l ike it's l unchtime…

Why Do Writers Use Figurative Language?

The term figurative language refers to a whole host of different figures of speech, so it's difficult to provide a single definitive answer to why writers use figurative language. That said, writers use figurative language for a wide variety of reasons:

  • Interest and beauty: Figurative language allows writes to express descriptions, ideas, and more in ways that are unique and beautiful.
  • Complexity and power: Because figurative language can create meanings that go beyond the literal, it can capture complex ideas, feelings, descriptions, or truths that cause readers to see things in a new way, or more closely mirror the complex reality of the world.
  • Visceral affect: Because figurative language can both impact the rhythm and sound of language, and also connect the abstract (say, love) with the concrete (say, a rose), it can help language make an almost physical impact on a reader.
  • Humor: By allowing a writer to layer additional meanings over literal meanings, or even to imply intended meanings that are the opposite of the literal meaning, figurative language gives writers all sorts of options for creating humor in their writing.
  • Realism: People speak and even think in terms of the sorts of comparisons that underlie so much figurative language. Rather than being flowery, figurative language allows writers to describe things in ways that match how people really think about them, and to create characters who themselves feel real.

In general, figurative language often makes writing feel at once more accessible and powerful, more colorful, surprising, and deep.

Other Helpful Figurative Language Resources

  • The dictionary definition of figurative : Touches on figurative language, as well as some other meanings of the word.
  • Figurative and Frost : Examples of figurative language in the context of the poetry of Robert Frost.
  • Figurative YouTube : A video identifying various forms of figurative language from movies and television shows.
  • Wikipedia on literal and figurative language : A bit technical, but with a good list of examples.

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Figures of Speech - Definition, Types and Usage with Examples

Are you as busy as a bee? Why not take some time off your busy schedule to learn how you can make your speech and writing sound and look extraordinary and engaging? There are many ways to make your language creative and interesting. One of the most effective ways to do it is to use figurative language. In this article, you will be introduced to what figures of speech are, their meaning and definition, the different types of figures of speech and how to use them effectively in sentences with examples.

a figure speech meaning

Table of Contents

Definition of a Figure of Speech

Classification of figures of speech.

  • How to Use a Figure of Speech in a Sentence? – Points to Remember

Examples of Figures of Speech

Frequently asked questions on figures of speech in english, what irs a figure of speech.

A figure of speech is an expression used to make a greater effect on your reader or listener. It includes making comparisons, contrasts, associations, exaggerations and constructions. It also gives a much clearer picture of what you are trying to convey.

Let us take a look at how different dictionaries define a figure of speech to have a much better idea of what it is.

A figure of speech, according to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, is defined as “a word or phrase used in a different way from its usual meaning in order to create a particular mental picture or effect.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines a figure of speech as “an expression that uses words to mean something different from their ordinary meaning.” According to the Collins Dictionary, a figure of speech is “an expression or word that is used with a metaphorical rather than a literal meaning.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a figure of speech as “ a form of expression (such as a simile or metaphor) used to convey meaning or heighten effect often by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning or connotation familiar to the reader or listener.” According to the Macmillan Dictionary, a figure of speech is defined as “an expression in which the words are used figuratively, not in their normal literal meaning.”

Figures of Speech in English Grammar

In English grammar , there are around fifteen to twenty figures of speech. However, there are a few of them which are used more often than the others. Let us look at the most commonly used figures of speech.

  • Personification
  • Alliteration
  • Transferred Epithet

How to Use a Figure of Speech in English? – Points to Remember

You now know that a figure of speech can make your language look and sound a lot more poetical, interesting and flamboyant. However, the challenge is not about learning the different figures of speech but knowing when, where and how to use them. You cannot use it anywhere you like. Only if it is used right and where they are appropriate and necessary, will it make your language better.

Figures of speech are not meant to provide information literally, so it is not suggested that you use figurative language in professional presentations and writings like essays. Since they do not convey literal meanings, it is very important that you learn how each figure of speech can be used. What is more important is knowing what it would mean when used in a particular part of a sentence. So, the most significant point that you have to keep in mind when using figures of speech is to employ them only if they give you the desired effect and meaning.

The figures of speech can be categorized into types based on their functions when used in sentences. Accordingly, the main categories are composed of ones that:

  • Show a Relationship or Resemblance
  • Show Phonetic Resemblances and Representing Sounds
  • Show Emphasis or Unimportance

Showing a Relationship or Resemblance

This category includes figures of speech which are designed to make comparisons to show a relationship or some resemblances. Similes, metaphors, personification, euphemism, metonymy and synecdoche are the figures of speech used for this purpose.

Showing Phonetic Resemblances and Representing Sounds

This category of figures of speech include alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia. The first two figures of speech are used to create an effect by using similar sounding words or words starting with the same consonant and vowel sounds, whereas onomatopoeia includes words that are used to represent sounds.

Showing Emphasis or Unimportance

The figures of speech belonging to this category are used to provide emphasis or show how important or unimportant something is. Hyperbole, antithesis, oxymoron, irony and litotes are figures of speech that can be used for this purpose.

Here are a few examples of the different figures of speech in English grammar.

  • Simile – Rachel is as bright as the sun.
  • Metaphor – The whole world is a stage.
  • Personification – The wind whispered in my ears.
  • Apostrophe – O William, you should be living now to see all this.
  • Alliteration – Sally sold some seashells.
  • Assonance – I seem to like your little green trees.
  • Hyperbole – I am so hungry I could eat a horse.
  • Oxymoron – Euthanizing their sick pet dog was considered as an act of kind cruelty.
  • Epigram – The child is the father of man.
  • Irony – A fire station burned down yesterday.
  • Pun – Life depends upon the liver.
  • Metonymy – The Bench decided that the man is guilty.
  • Synecdoche – We need more hands to help us move this cupboard.
  • Transferred Epithet – She had a sleepless night.

What is a figure of speech?

What is the definition of a figure of speech.

A figure of speech, according to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, is defined as “a word or phrase used in a different way from its usual meaning in order to create a particular mental picture or effect.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines a figure of speech as “an expression that uses words to mean something different from their ordinary meaning.” According to the Collins Dictionary, a figure of speech is “an expression or word that is used with a metaphorical rather than a literal meaning.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a figure of speech as “ a form of expression (such as a simile or metaphor) used to convey meaning or heighten effect often by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning or connotation familiar to the reader or listener.” According to the Macmillan Dictionary, a figure of speech is defined as “an expression in which the words are used figuratively, not in their normal literal meaning.”

What are the different figures of speech in English?

Here is a list of the different figures of speech in English.

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  • figure of speech

any expressive use of language, as a metaphor, simile, personification, or antithesis, in which words are used in other than their literal sense, or in other than their ordinary locutions, in order to suggest a picture or image or for other special effect. : Compare trope (def. 1) .

Origin of figure of speech

Words nearby figure of speech.

  • figure-ground phenomenon
  • figure of eight
  • figure of merit
  • figure skate
  • figure skating

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

British Dictionary definitions for figure of speech

an expression of language, such as simile, metaphor, or personification, by which the usual or literal meaning of a word is not employed

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

figure of speech

What is a figure of speech definition, usage, and literary examples, figure of speech definition.

Figures of speech  (FIG-yurs of SPEEchuh) are words or phrases used in a non-literal sense for  rhetorical  effect. They are often constructed using literary devices such as  metaphor ,  simile ,  alliteration , metonymy, synecdoche, and personification. Figures of speech allow writers to apply familiar ideas and  imagery  to less familiar concepts, and they are widespread in written and spoken language.

Figure of Speech Categories

Figures of speech fall into two broad categories: tropes and scheme. These are  dozens of figures of speech  that fall into each category, so the following are a select few examples.

These are figures of speech that play with syntax, sound, and words. They often achieve their effects by utilizing repetition of words, phrases, or sounds; omission of words or punctuation; unexpected changes in word order; or paired identical grammatical structures.

  • Alliteration : Repeating consonant sounds in a series of words
  • Diacope: Repeating words or phrases, interrupted by one or two other words
  • Homonyms: Identical words that have different meanings
  • Sibilance: Repeating hissing sounds
  • Asyndeton: Omitting conjunctions between related series of clauses
  • Brachylogia: Omitting conjunctions between individual words
  • Ellipsis: Omitting words without losing  context  or understanding
  • Syncope: Omitting word or phrase parts

Changes in Word Order

  • Anastrophe: Rearranging the subject, object and verb order in a phrase
  • Apposition: Two phrases, often separated by commas, where the second defines the first
  • Parenthesis: A rhetorical, qualifying phrase inserted into a sentence or passage
  • Spoonerism: Switching syllables between two words

Paired Grammatical Structures

  • Antithesis : Juxtaposing ideas
  • Isocolon: Consecutive phrases of identical length in words or syllables
  • Parallelism: Similar grammatical structure between two or more clauses
  • Tricolon: Three consecutive phrases of identical length in words or syllables

These are figures of speech that deviate in some way from the literal meanings of words. They tend to include association or comparison to shift readers’ perceptions from words’ true definitions to a layered figurative meaning. They can be broken into five categories: reference, word play/puns, substitutions, overstatement/understatement, and inversion.

  • Allegory : A narrative that is an indirect metaphor for a broader, real-world concept
  • Allusion : An intertextual reference to another creative work
  • Metaphor : A direct comparison between two unrelated things
  • Personification: Attributing human characteristics to non-human entities

Word Play/Puns

  • Innuendo: A phrase or  sentence  with a hidden (often salacious) meaning
  • Malapropism: Confusing a word with a similar sounding one
  • Paraprosdokian : An unexpected ending to a phrase
  • Pun : Word play that makes use of a word’s multiple meanings

Substitutions

  • Dysphemism: Using a harsh word or phrase to replace a gentler one
  • Euphemism : Using a more agreeable word or phrase to replace an offensive one
  • Metonymy: Replacing a word or term with something associated with it
  • Synecdoche: Referring to a whole by its part(s) or vice versa

Overstatement/Understatement

  • Grandiloquence: Speech that is pompous or grandiose
  • Hyperbole : An emphatic exaggeration
  • Litotes : Emphasizing a statement by negating its opposite
  • Satire: Criticism of society through humorous means
  • Irony : Conveying the opposite of a word’s literal meaning
  • Oxymoron : Using contradictory words together
  • Paradox: Using contradictory ideas to make a point
  • Synesthesia: Using sensory-specific words to describe a different sense

Most Common Figures of Speech

The following are some of the most common figures of speech that appear in literature and other written forms.

  • Alliteration :  This is a scheme that uses repetition of the same first consonant sound to create a musical effect. “Francine found France quite lovely” is an example of alliteration because of the repeating  f  sound in the words  Francine ,  found , and  France .
  • Apostrophe:  With apostrophe, a speaker directly addresses an inanimate object, an abstract concept, or a person who is either imaginary or not present. John Donne use apostrophe in his poem “ Holy Sonnet: Death, be not proud ,” wherein he speaks directly to a personified idea of death.
  • Chiasmus:  This is a scheme where the second half of an expression is balanced against the first half in a reversed order. “You should eat to live, not live to eat” is one example; it repeats the words  eat  and  live  but reverses the order the second time they occur.
  • Euphemism:  This literary device takes a mild or indirect word or expression and replaces something harsh, unpleasant, or offensive with it. Saying someone  passed on  is a euphemism for  died ;  powder my nose  is a euphemism for  go to the bathroom .
  • Hyperbole:  This is the use of exaggeration for emphasis or heightened effect. “If I don’t nap right now, I will die” is a hyperbolic statement; it conveys the experience of feeling tired, but readers understand the speaker won’t literally die.
  • Irony:  This literary device occurs when words are used to convey the opposite of their meaning or when a situation seems directly contrary to what is expected. Famously, Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic” lists many situations she deems ironic when they aren’t ironic at all; thus, irony.
  • Litotes:  This figure of speech refers to a type of understatement. It is used to negate a statement in a way that actually affirms it. For example, saying “That’s no small chunk of change” indicates that the sum in question is, in fact, large.
  • Metaphor :  A form of trope, metaphors make an implicit comparison between two unrelated things. “Love is a battlefield” is metaphoric, as it implies the experience of being in love is the same as being on a battlefield.
  • Onomatopoeia :  Words that are onomatopoeic evoke the sounds of the thing they are referring to.  Hiss ,  crash , and  tick tock  are all examples because they sound like what they are describing—the sound of a snake, thunder, and a clock, respectively.
  • Oxymoron:  This literary device consists of contradictory words paired together. Although the words initially appear to negate each other, they make sense when joined.  Deafening silence  is an oxymoronic pair; the adjective  deafening  means “a volume so high that nothing can be heard over it,” and the noun  silence  means “without sound.” These words are incongruous, but together they mean an overbearing, noticeable absence of sound.
  • Personification:  When greater qualities of animation are given to a non-human or inanimate object, that is personification. In T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” fog is described as “The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes/The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes.” Here, Eliot is personifying the fog by giving it the attributes of a cat.
  • Pun :  This is a humorous play on words, often using homonyms, homographs, or homophones. For example, “I’ve been to the dentist many times, so I know the drill” is a pun; it plays with the double meaning of the word  drill  as a tool of the dentistry trade and as a concept of something being routine.
  • Simile :  Related to metaphors, similes are explicit comparisons made using the words  like  or  as . “Lucille’s dress was as red as a fire truck” makes an explicit comparison between the color of the dress and the color of a fire truck. This allows the reader to properly visualize what Lucille is wearing.
  • Synecdoche:  This is a figure of speech wherein a part of something stands in for the whole thing. “All hands on deck” is a synecdoche because  hands  stands in for the whole crew of a ship.”

Figure of Speech and Figurative Language

People often use the terms  figurative language  and  figure of speech  interchangeably; however, they are not the same. Instead, figurative language is a broad category that contains figures of speech, as well as  imagery  and  sound devices .

Imagery adds additional aesthetic resonance to texts through the evocation of sensory details. Sound devices enhance the text through sonic means. These elements, in conjunction with figures of speech, give a deeper meaning to the language a writer uses in their work.

Why Figures of Speech Are Used

These literary devices emphasize, embellish, or clarify written or spoken language. They allow an audience to understand ideas through implied or suggested meaning, thus giving the language a more surprising, creative, and playful effect. Some figures of speech enhance imagery, while others allow writers to employ rich cultural traditions to express their ideas. Even further, other figures of speech allow writers to experiment with structure and sound to create specific effects. No matter which type is used, the expressive quality of figures of speech helps keep audiences engaged.

Examples of Figures of Speech in Literature

1. Hafizah Geter, “ Testimony ”

Geter begins her  poem :

Mr. President,
After they shot me they tackled my sister.
the sound of her knees hitting the sidewalk
made my stomach ache. It was a bad pain.

The poem is a  dramatic monologue  spoken by Tamir Rice, a 12-year old black child who was killed by police officers who mistook his toy gun for a real one. This poem uses apostrophe as the speaker, Tamir, talks directly to “Mr. President” (then president Barack Obama).

2. William Shakespeare,   Macbeth

In Act III, Scene iii., of this play, before King Duncan’s murder is discovered, Lennox and Macbeth converse:

LENNOX: The night has been unruly: where we lay,
Our chimneys were blown down: and, as they say,
Lamentings heard i’the air; strange screams of death,
And prophesying with accents terrible
Of fire combustion and confused events
New hatch’d to the woeful time: the obscure bird
Clamour’d the livelong night: some say, the earth
Was feverous and did shake.
MACBETH: ‘Twas a rough night.
LENNOX: My young remembrance cannot parallel
A fellow to it.

Pathetic fallacy is a type of trope. It occurs when human feelings and attributes are ascribed to nature. This figure of speech is used throughout this  Shakespearean  tragedy. In this particular scene, Lennox describes how terrible and strange the weather was on the evening of the murder. The way the wind and earth seem to embody the horror of King Duncan’s death is pathetic fallacy.

3. Karl Marx,   Das Kapital

In Part I (“Commodities and Money”) of Marx’s treatise on economics, philosophy, history, and political science, he claims:

In the pre-capitalist stages of society, commerce rules industry. In capitalist society, industry rules commerce.

These two sentences are an example of chiasmus. Here, “commerce” first rules “industry,” and then “industry” rules “commerce.” By reversing the order of these words/concepts, Marx employs chiasmus.

4. Toni Morrison,  Sula

The last line of Morrison’s novel is considered by some to be one of the best lines in fiction and nonfiction. The sentence describes protagonist Nel’s grief at the death of her childhood friend Sula:

It was a fine cry—loud and long—but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.

This sentence is rich in alliteration: “loud and long” contain  L  sounds at the beginning, as well as the repetition of  c  and  s  sounds with  cry ,  circles ,  circles , and  sorrow . The latter is also an example of sibilance.

5. Oscar Wilde,   The Importance of Being Earnest

In Wilde’s play, the main characters John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff pose as men named Ernest, only for Jack to learn that his given name really is Ernest. He delivers the final line of the play:

On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital importance of being Earnest.

Jack/Ernest’s declaration is a homographic pun. It means both that he understands the importance of being Ernest (his real name), as well as the importance of being  earnest  (sincere).

6. Aimee Nezhukumatathil, “ On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance ”

In this poem, Nezhukumatathil describes the experience of one’s name being mispronounced by a teacher taking attendance:

everyone turns around to check out
your face, no need to flush red and warm.
Just picture all the eyes as if your classroom
is one big scallop with its dozens of icy blues
and you will remember that winter your family
took you to the China see and you sank
your face in it to gaze at baby clams and sea stars

She uses a simile, “Just picture all the eyes as if your classroom/is one big scallop with its dozens of icy blues,” to explicitly compare the staring kids to the dozens of eyes that a sea scallop has.

Further Resources on Figure of Speech

Thought Catalog has a wonderful list of  figures of speech used by Homer Simpson  in  The Simpsons.

Jamcampus published a  great list  of twenty examples of metaphors in popular songs.

This is an entertaining round up of  oxymorons .

SuperSummary's library of resources and content , such as " A Beginner's Guide to Literary Analysis " and " How to Write a Summary ."

Related Terms

  • Figurative language

a figure speech meaning

What Are Figures of Speech? Definition & 100+ Examples

Have you ever pondered how our words can paint vivid pictures, evoke intense emotions, or transport us to magical realms? Welcome to the enchanting world of figures of speech! As the spices of language, these expressive tools bring flavor to our conversations and help us articulate our thoughts with creativity and flair.

Join us as we embark on this exciting linguistic adventure, and unlock the secrets to using figures of speech effectively. Whether you’re a writer, a speaker, or simply someone who loves the art of language, this exploration promises to enlighten and inspire.

So grab your metaphorical paintbrush, and get ready to turn your words into a masterpiece!

Table of Contents

Figures of Speech: Definition

Figures of speech are expressive language devices used to add color, depth, and creativity to our communication. They go beyond the literal meaning of words and phrases, employing stylistic and imaginative techniques to convey ideas more vividly and engagingly.

By intentionally manipulating words and phrases, figures of speech create richer and more impactful expressions, giving language its poetic, persuasive, and emotive qualities.

Figures of speech breathe life into our language, making it more engaging and memorable. They enable us to paint vivid images, evoke emotions, and convey complex ideas with clarity and impact.

Types of Figures of Speech

There are numerous figures of speech, each serving a unique purpose in enhancing the beauty and expressiveness of language. Here are some of the types:

A metaphor is a powerful figure of speech that allows us to make connections between two dissimilar things by asserting that one thing is another. By drawing attention to a shared characteristic, metaphors create vivid images, enhance understanding, and enrich language. Unlike similes, metaphors don’t use comparative words such as “like” or “as.”

Here are some examples of metaphors and their meanings:

A simile is a figure of speech that compares two distinct things by using the words “like” or “as” to establish a connection. By highlighting a shared quality or characteristic, similes create vivid images and enhance the reader’s or listener’s understanding of the subject.

While metaphors make direct comparisons without using comparative words, similes explicitly use “like” or “as” to draw attention to the similarity between the two things being compared.

Here are some examples of similes and their meanings:

Hyperbole is a figure of speech that employs intentional exaggeration to create emphasis, drama, or humor. By magnifying a particular quality or characteristic, hyperboles draw attention to the subject and evoke strong emotions.

Although not meant to be taken literally, hyperboles effectively convey the intensity or extremity of a situation or feeling, enriching language and engaging the reader or listener.

Here are some examples of hyperboles and their meanings:

Alliteration

Alliteration is a figure of speech that features the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. Often used in poetry, prose, and tongue twisters, alliteration adds a rhythmic and musical quality to language, making it more memorable and engaging.

Here are some examples of alliteration:

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines two seemingly contradictory or opposing terms to create a new concept or expression. By juxtaposing these contrasting words, oxymorons emphasize contrast, create paradoxes, and evoke curiosity or surprise in the reader.

They can also add depth, complexity, or humor to language, highlighting the nuances and contradictions in human experience.

Here are some examples of oxymorons:

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia refers to words that imitate or sound like the action they describe. This figure of speech is commonly used in poetry and helps to convey a more vivid image to the reader.

Here are some examples of onomatopoeia:

Personification

Personification is a figure of speech that attributes human qualities, emotions, or actions to non-human objects, animals, or abstract concepts.

By giving human characteristics to inanimate objects or intangible ideas, personification helps to create vivid imagery, evoke emotions, and make abstract concepts more relatable and engaging for the reader or listener.

It is frequently used in poetry, prose, and other forms of creative expression to enhance the impact and appeal of language.

Here are some examples of personification:

A pun is a form of wordplay that exploits the multiple meanings or similar sounds of words to create humor, irony, or rhetorical impact. Puns often rely on homophones (words that sound alike but have different meanings) or homonyms (words that have the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings).

They can be used to create jokes, add levity, or bring attention to a particular idea or concept. Puns are a popular form of humor in literature, advertising, and everyday conversation.

Here are some examples of puns:

Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent the whole, or conversely, the whole is used to represent a part. This literary device allows writers and speakers to create emphasis or simplification by using a representative term, making their language more concise, vivid, and engaging.

Synecdoche is commonly used in poetry, prose, and everyday speech to create impactful imagery and evoke emotions.

Here are some examples of synecdoche:

Irony is a figure of speech that uses words to convey a meaning that is opposite to or different from their literal or usual meaning, often to create humor, critique, or emphasize a point.

Irony highlights the discrepancy between what is said or expected and what actually occurs or is meant. It is commonly used in literature, conversation, and other forms of communication to engage the audience and provoke thought.

There are several types of irony, including verbal, situational, and dramatic irony.

Here are some examples of irony:

Litotes is a figure of speech that employs understatement or a double negative to emphasize a point or convey a positive meaning. By presenting a statement in a weaker or more modest form, litotes highlights the intended meaning through contrast or irony.

This rhetorical device is frequently used in literature, speeches, and everyday language to create emphasis, evoke humor, or express modesty and politeness.

Here are some examples of litotes:

Metonymy is a figure of speech in which a closely associated but non-literal term is substituted for the word it is intended to represent. This rhetorical device allows writers and speakers to create emphasis or simplification by using a representative term or symbol, making their language more concise, vivid, and engaging.

Metonymy is commonly used in poetry, prose, and everyday speech to create impactful imagery and evoke emotions.

Here are some examples of metonymy:

A euphemism is a figure of speech in which a mild or indirect expression is substituted for a harsh, blunt, or offensive one. This rhetorical device allows writers and speakers to convey sensitive or potentially uncomfortable information in a more delicate or polite manner.

Euphemisms are often used to address taboo subjects, unpleasant situations, or impolite language, helping to maintain a sense of decorum and respect in communication.

Here are some examples of euphemisms:

Antithesis is a figure of speech that places two opposing or contrasting ideas side by side to create a clear, contrasting relationship or an intense effect. This rhetorical device emphasizes the differences between the ideas and enhances the impact of both concepts by using their contrast to create a striking and memorable image or statement.

Antithesis is often used in literature, speeches, and other forms of communication to engage the audience, provoke thought, and highlight the complexity or depth of an idea.

Here are some examples of antithesis:

Apostrophe is a figure of speech in which a speaker directly addresses an absent or imaginary person, an abstract concept, or a personified object. This rhetorical device allows writers and speakers to create a more emotional, intimate, or dramatic effect in their work, engaging the audience and evoking strong feelings.

Apostrophe is often used in literature, particularly poetry and drama, to convey deep emotions, personal reflections, or powerful messages.

Here are some examples of apostrophe:

Understatement

Understatement is a figure of speech that deliberately minimizes the importance or impact of something, often for humorous or ironic effect. This rhetorical device allows writers and speakers to convey their message in a subtle, indirect manner, emphasizing their point by downplaying its significance.

Understatement is often used in literature, speeches, and everyday conversations to create humor, irony, or to heighten the impact of a situation by contrasting it with its mild description.

Here are some examples of understatement:

A paradox is a figure of speech that presents a statement or situation that seems contradictory or illogical but can hold a deeper meaning or truth. This rhetorical device challenges the reader or listener to think beyond the surface and find a more profound understanding or insight.

Paradoxes are often used in literature, philosophy, and everyday language to create intrigue, provoke thought, and reveal the complexity of ideas or situations.

Here are some examples of paradox:

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in non-rhyming words, often used to create internal rhymes and enhance the rhythm in poetry or prose. This figure of speech contributes to the musicality, mood, and overall atmosphere of a piece, making it more engaging and memorable for the reader or listener.

Assonance can also be employed for emphasis, to draw attention to certain words or ideas, and to create a sense of cohesion within a text.

Here are some examples of assonance:

Anaphora is a figure of speech involving the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of consecutive clauses or sentences to emphasize an idea, create a sense of rhythm, and reinforce a particular point.

This rhetorical device is commonly used in poetry, speeches, and prose to establish a pattern, evoke emotion, and make a message more memorable and powerful.

Here are some examples of anaphora:

Chiasmus is a figure of speech where the order of words in one phrase is reversed in the following phrase, creating a mirrored or inverted structure. This rhetorical device is used to create emphasis, balance, and contrast, making a message more memorable and impactful.

Chiasmus is often found in literature, speeches, and everyday language to convey a sense of symmetry, harmony, or irony.

Here are some examples of chiasmus:

Figurative Language in Literature and Writing

Figurative language is a crucial aspect of literature and writing, serving to create vivid images and engaging scenes for readers.

It is commonly used in poetry, prose, and other forms of writing to enhance the narrative and provide deeper meaning. By employing various literary devices and wordplay, writers can evoke emotions, provoke thought, and create memorable experiences for their readers.

One of the primary purposes of figurative language is to convey abstract ideas and concepts through concrete images. Writers often use metaphors, similes, and personification to create connections between seemingly unrelated subjects.

Another common technique employed in literature and writing is the use of symbolism, where objects, characters, or events represent abstract ideas or concepts.

This can contribute to the development of themes, the exploration of human experiences, and the layering of meaning throughout a narrative. For example, a recurring motif of birds may symbolize freedom, while a shattered mirror may represent broken relationships.

Wordplay, such as puns, alliteration, and onomatopoeia, also enriches literary works and adds an element of sophistication to writing. These devices showcase the writer’s mastery of language and provide additional layers of interpretation for readers.

Using Figures of Speech in Writing: Strategies

Figures of speech are essential tools that writers use to refine their craft and convey meaning effectively. They can enrich writing by providing additional layers of meaning and enlivening prose by introducing distinctive language patterns.

One strategy for using figures of speech is to incorporate various literary devices such as similes, metaphors, and personification in text. These tropes allow writers to make comparisons that evoke strong mental images, enhancing the reader’s understanding of the content.

Another effective approach is to incorporate elements of grammar and structure, such as alliteration, anaphora, or chiasmus, to create memorable and captivating patterns in writing.

Incorporating irony, sarcasm, or understatement in text can also help writers convey meaning in a subtle, witty, or humorous manner. These figures of speech add another dimension to the narrative by contrasting what is said with what is meant or what is expected.

Lastly, it is crucial for writers to understand their audience and consider the context in which the writing will be read. Tropes that work well for one audience might not resonate with another, and overusing figures of speech may hinder understanding or distract from the message being conveyed.

Related Terms and Concepts

In the realm of figures of speech, several related terms and concepts can be found. These terms help clarify the various devices and techniques that contribute to a more evocative and effective use of language.

Circumlocution is a figure of speech in which a speaker or writer uses more words than necessary to express an idea, often with the purpose of avoiding a direct statement. Examples of circumlocution can be found in politics, science, and everyday conversation. It can be a useful tool in crafting an evasive response, obscuring a truth or maintaining diplomatic neutrality.

Pleonasm refers to the use of redundant words or phrases in a sentence. This figure of speech may seem superfluous, but it can be used intentionally to emphasize a point or create a specific effect. In some cases, pleonasm can add lyrical or rhythmic qualities to a phrase, as in poetry.

Epigram is a brief, witty, and often satirical statement that conveys a thought or observation in a concise and memorable way. Epigrams are often used in literature and social commentary to offer insight or provoke thought. Examples of epigrams can be found across diverse literary works, from ancient Greek and Roman texts to the modern-day writings of prominent authors.

Schemes refer to the arrangement of words and phrases in a sentence or paragraph, focusing on syntax and structure. These rhetorical devices can elevate language by creating patterns, contrasts, or emphasis.

Some common examples of schemes include parallelism, chiasmus, and antithesis. Schemes can be powerful tools in crafting engaging and meaningful writing across numerous fields, from science to poetry.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a figure of speech and a literary device.

A figure of speech is a type of literary device that uses words or expressions in a non-literal or metaphorical way to create a particular effect, such as imagery, emphasis, or emotional impact.

Literary devices, on the other hand, are a broader category that encompasses various techniques and tools used by writers to enhance their work, create meaning, and engage readers.

Figures of speech are a subset of literary devices, which also include elements like symbolism, irony, foreshadowing, and alliteration.

Can using too many figures of speech be detrimental to communication?

While figures of speech can enrich language and make it more engaging, using too many of them can be detrimental to communication.

Overuse of figures of speech can make a text overly complicated, obscure the intended meaning, and even confuse or alienate readers who are unfamiliar with the expressions being used.

It’s essential to strike a balance between using figures of speech for stylistic effect and maintaining clarity and accessibility in communication.

Can understanding figures of speech improve critical thinking skills?

Yes, understanding figures of speech can contribute to the development of critical thinking skills.

By learning to identify and analyze various rhetorical devices in language, you become more adept at recognizing the underlying ideas, assumptions, and emotions that inform a message.

This heightened awareness can help you evaluate the validity and persuasiveness of arguments, identify potential biases or manipulative language, and make more informed decisions based on the information you encounter.

Can the use of figures of speech affect the tone of a piece of writing?

Yes, the use of figures of speech can significantly affect the tone of a piece of writing. Depending on the specific figure of speech used and the context, it can evoke various emotions, create a sense of humor, or convey a sense of seriousness or formality.

For instance, using a hyperbole can create a sense of exaggeration or humor, while employing a metaphor can add depth or poignancy to a description.

The choice and frequency of figures of speech can help establish the overall tone and style of a piece of writing, shaping the reader’s perception and experience of the text.

Figures of speech are versatile and powerful tools that breathe life into language, enabling writers and speakers to create vivid imagery, evoke emotions, and engage their audience.

By using various rhetorical devices such as metaphor, simile, personification, irony, and litotes, communicators can express ideas in creative, memorable, and impactful ways.

The artful application of figures of speech not only enriches language but also helps to forge connections between the communicator and their audience, ultimately elevating the quality and resonance of any form of communication.

Embrace the world of figures of speech, and watch your language take flight!

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The Top 20 Figures of Speech

Illustration by Hugo Lin. ThoughtCo.

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

A figure of speech is a rhetorical device that achieves a special effect by using words in a distinctive way. Though there are hundreds of figures of speech, here we'll focus on 20 top examples.

You'll probably remember many of these terms from your English classes. Figurative language is often associated with literature and with poetry in particular. Whether we're conscious of it or not, we use figures of speech every day in our own writing and conversations.

For example, common expressions such as "falling in love," "racking our brains," and "climbing the ladder of success" are all metaphors —the most pervasive figure of all. Likewise, we rely on similes when making explicit comparisons ("light as a feather") and hyperbole to emphasize a point ("I'm starving!").

Did You Know?

Figures of speech are also known as  figures of rhetoric, figures of style, rhetorical figures,   figurative language,  and  schemes .

Watch Now: Common Figures of Speech Explained

Using original figures of speech in our writing is a way to convey meanings in fresh, unexpected ways. They can help our readers understand and stay interested in what we have to say. 

Alliteration

The repetition of an initial consonant sound.

Example: She sells seashells by the seashore.

The repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or verses.

Example : Unfortunately, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time on the wrong day. 

The juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases.

Example: As Abraham Lincoln said, "Folks who have no vices have very few virtues."

Directly addressing a nonexistent person or an inanimate object as though it were a living being.

Example: "Oh, you stupid car, you never work when I need you to," Bert sighed.

Identity or similarity in sound between internal vowels in neighboring words.

Example: How now, brown cow?

A verbal pattern in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first but with the parts reversed.

Example: The famous chef said people should live to eat, not eat to live.

The substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit.  

Example: "We're teaching our toddler how to go potty," Bob said.

An extravagant statement; the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or heightened effect.

Example: I have a ton of things to do when I get home.

The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. Also, a statement or situation where the meaning is contradicted by the appearance or presentation of the idea.

Example: "Oh, I love spending big bucks," said my dad, a notorious penny pincher.

A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.

Example: A million dollars is no small chunk of change.

An implied comparison between two dissimilar things that have something in common.

Example: "All the world's a stage."

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated; also, the rhetorical strategy of describing something indirectly by referring to things around it.

Example: "That stuffed suit with the briefcase is a poor excuse for a salesman," the manager said angrily.

Onomatopoeia

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

Example: The clap of thunder went bang and scared my poor dog.

A figure of speech in which incongruous or contradictory terms appear side by side.

Example:  "He popped the jumbo shrimp in his mouth."

A statement that appears to contradict itself.

Example: "This is the beginning of the end," said Eeyore, always the pessimist.

Personification

A figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities.

Example: That kitchen knife will take a bite out of your hand if you don't handle it safely.

​ A play on words , sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words.

Example: Jessie looked up from her breakfast and said, "A boiled egg every morning is hard to beat."

A stated comparison (usually formed with "like" or "as") between two fundamentally dissimilar things that have certain qualities in common.

Example: Roberto was white as a sheet after he walked out of the horror movie.

A figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole.

Example: Tina is learning her ABC's in preschool.

Understatement

A figure of speech in which a writer or speaker deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is.

Example: "You could say Babe Ruth was a decent ballplayer," the reporter said with a wink.

  • Brief Introductions to Common Figures of Speech
  • AP English Exam: 101 Key Terms
  • Figure of Thought in Rhetoric
  • How Figurative Language Is Used Every Day
  • Figures of Speech: The Apostrophe as a Literary Device
  • 20 Figures of Speech That We Never Heard About in School
  • Figure of Sound in Prose and Poetry
  • Definition and Examples of Litotes in English Grammar
  • Hyperbole: Definition and Examples
  • Simile Definition and Examples
  • antanaclasis (word play)
  • Traductio: Rhetorical Repetition
  • What Is the Figure of Speech Antiphrasis?
  • Definition and Examples of Irony (Figure of Speech)
  • Transferred Epithet Definition and Examples
  • 100 Awfully Good Examples of Oxymorons

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  • Figure of Speech

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A figure of speech is a deviation from the ordinary use of words in order to increase their effectiveness. It is also known as a rhetorical figure too because it produces a rhetorical effect. It deviates a statement from its real meaning or common usage to create a new required effect. It usually emphasises, embellishes, or clarifies language in both written and oral form. We can see its usage in literature too. We can even see it in advertisements, posters, slogans, newspapers, magazines, cartoons, etc. 

Figure of speech can easily catch eyes and highlight the purpose of use. It is designed to make a comparison and create a dramatic factor while writing or speaking. Basically, it is a figurative language that may consist of a single word or phrase. It may be a simile, a metaphor or personification to convey the meaning other than the literal meaning. It is usually classified as different schemes. The ordinary sequence or pattern of words is known as a scheme. We usually perform basic four operations as below to create the required effect:

The addition is also known as repetition, expansion, or superabundance.

An omission is also known as subtraction, abridgement or lack.

Transposition is also known as transferring.

Permutation is also known as switching, interchange, substitution, or transmutation.

We can see many varieties in figures of speech because its prime aim is to use language to create the desired effect. For example, the usage of expressions like the mouth of a river, round and round, the eye of a needle, nasty place, a stream of abuse, money talks, butterflies in the stomach, painful pride, etc. We can see it in literature, poems, movies, speeches, etc. Therefore, in this article, the importance of figure of speech along with its various types with examples will be discussed.

Importance of Figure of Speech

It enhances the beauty of the writing. It makes the sentence deeper and leaves the reader with a sense of wonder. It brings life to the words used by the writer. The figure of Speech not only shows the writer's intent but also his purpose in using such language. 

It adds flavour to the writing and makes it so much more enjoyable for the reader.

There are five major categories of figures of speech as below:

Figures of resemblance : It is also known as the figure of relationship. It is made up of simile, metaphor, or kenning.

Figures of emphasis : It is also known as a figure of an understatement. It is made up of hyperbole. 

Figures of sound : It uses alliteration.

Verbal games : It is also known as gymnastics. It includes puns.

Errors : It is created of malapropism and usually generated because of blunder.

Types of Figure Of Speech

Simile - In a simile, two things which are completely unlocked are compared with each other. A simile is introduced by words such as like, so, as etc.

Examples - 

The flower is as pretty as a picture.

He is as sober as a judge.

The floor was as slippery as an eel.

They looked like peas in a pod.

He eats like a pig.

Metaphor - When you compare two unlike or different things or ideas, it is known as a metaphor. It is an informal or implied simile in which the words ‘like’ ‘as’ are avoided. For example, He is like a Giant - Simile and He is a Giant - Metaphor. 

You are the apple of my eye.

Ocean’s sound is music to my ear.

Heart of gold.

He is a night owl.

Time is money.

Personification - In Personification, non-living things,  abstract ideas or qualities are mentioned as humans or living things.

Angry clouds surrounded the island.

Earth was thirsty for water.

The flowers talked to them in the garden.

The wind howled that night.

The snowflakes danced at night.

Apostrophe - In this figure of speech, the writer mentions the absent or inanimate objects as alive and writes about them.

“O, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are”

“Walter, remember when the world was young and all the girls knew Walter's name? Walter, isn't it a shame the way our little world has changed.”

Oxymoron - An Oxymoron is when two words are used together in a sentence but they seem to be in contrast with each other. An oxymoron is a figure of speech that willingly uses two differing ideas. This contradiction creates a paradoxical image in the reader or listener's mind that creates a new concept or meaning for the whole.

Life is bittersweet.

They knew they could feel the joyful sadness on his arrival.

Sweet sorrow.

Peace force.

Free market.

Hyperbole - Hyperbole is when you use words to exaggerate what you mean or emphasize a point. It is used to make something seem bigger or more important than it actually is.

Example - 

It has been ages since I have had a proper meal.

Usain Bolt runs faster than the wind.

I could do this forever.

She’s older than this world.

Everybody knows me.

Pun - A pun is generally used in plays where one word has two different meanings. It is used to create humour. Humorous use of words of different meanings or the words of the same sound but different meanings is known as Pun.

A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tired.

Where do you find giant snails? On the ends of the giants' fingers.

Alliteration - It is a series of words, which commence with the same letter. Alliteration consists of the repetition of a sound or of a letter at the beginning of two or more words.

For Example -

Dirty dolphins dove across the ocean.

Purple pandas painted portraits. 

She sells seashells.

Nick needed new notebooks.

Fred fried frogs’ legs on Friday.

Onomatopoeia - It is the figure of speech where the word is used to describe a sound. When we explain any action by putting the sounds into language, it is known as onomatopoeia. It is generally used in fiction or in nursery rhymes, for eg- Old Macdonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O. Words like whoosh, splat, buzz, oink, click, etc., are used to create this effect. 

I could hear the leaves rustling and the wind howling. 

Bam! He hit the truck at the speed of 80 kmph.

 Anaphora - When many phrases or verses start with the same word, it is known as anaphora.

I came, I saw, I conquered.

We shall not stop. We shall go on and on. We shall move forward.

Assonance - When we use repetition of vowel sounds, it is known as assonance. 

Euphemism - It is known as a euphemism when we replace blunt, offensive, or harsh terms with soft, mild, vague, or indirect terms.

Using letting you go instead of firing

Using a little thin on top instead of getting bald

Using  passed away instead of killed or died

Using stick to the truth instead of calling someone a liar

Irony - If you use terms that contrast with what you say and what you do, it is known as irony. It’s like a difference between what is said and what is meant.

A traffic cop got a ticket for parking in a no-parking zone.

The Titanic was said to be unsinkable but got sunk on its first trip.

When the viewer knows who the killer is in the movie, but the actor doesn’t know that.

Synecdoche - If a part is represented by a whole or a whole is represented by a part, it is known as synecdoche.

Colgate – any toothpaste

Wheels – a car

Employed people – workers

The traffic – many vehicles 

Understatement - When you try to say or show something of no importance or less importance.

Referring a big wound to just a scratch

Saying it little dry instead of desert

Referring big destruction to just an accident

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FAQs on Figure of Speech

1. Does the figure of speech make writing interesting?

Yes. Figure of speech adds expression, emphasises the writing and adds clarity to it. Well-researched and detailed content on the figures of speech can be found on the website of Vedantu. It can be downloaded for free in PDF format from both the website and the mobile application of Vedantu.

2. Name five most used figures of speech.

Some of the most common figure of speech are:

Personification

You can access good articles on this topic from the website of Vedantu and its mobile application.

FilmDaft

Figure of Speech: Meaning & Examples from Literature & Film

Definition: A figure of speech is a rhetorical device that employs words in a non-literal, often imaginative way to convey meanings, emphasize ideas, or evoke emotions. It includes metaphors, similes, personification, and hyperbole, enhancing the expressiveness and richness of language by transcending ordinary usage.

Figures of speech are linguistic tools that enhance writing or speech by adding emphasis, clarity, or beauty.

In film, they mostly appear as part of movie titles, in the dialogue, or as part of the plot or theme.

Fx, the red and blue pills in The Matrix (1999) are a metaphor for awakening to reality versus remaining in comfortable ignorance.

Table of Contents

The different types of figures of speech.

Alliteration figure of speech example - she sells sea shells by the seashore. Illustrative image.

As a literary device, figures of speech can take many forms. Here is a quick overview of each type.

For each type of figure of speech, you can click the link and see an article that gives you more insight into how it appears in film, including examples.

These figures of speech are used in literature, film, and everyday language to convey meanings more vividly and imaginatively.

Figure of Speech: A few Examples from Movies

Figures of speech appear frequently in films, often enriching dialogues, monologues, and narratives.

Here are several examples of figures of speech from movies:

In the “ Deadpool ” (2016) Red Band Trailer , Deadpool says,

“You’re probably thinking, ‘My boyfriend said this was a superhero movie, but that guy in the suit just turned that other guy into a fucking kabab!'” Deadpool

This line alludes to the typical expectations of a superhero movie, contrasting Deadpool’s violent actions with the more sanitized actions of traditional superheroes.

In “ Titanic ” (1997), the character Rose, played by Kate Winslet, ironically states, “It’s so unfair,” referring to her feeling trapped in her engagement and social class.

The irony is deeper when considering the tragic fate of the Titanic itself, juxtaposing her woes against a much larger disaster.

In The Lion King (1994) , the Pride Lands turning barren under Scar’s rule is a metaphor for how poor leadership and greed can lead to societal decay and environmental destruction.

Personification

In Disney’s “ Beauty and the Beast ” (1991), the characters Lumière (a candelabra), Cogsworth (a clock), and Mrs. Potts (a teapot) are examples of personification, as they are inanimate household objects given human traits, emotions, and the ability to speak.

In “ Forrest Gump ” (1994), Forrest says,

“Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump

This simile compares the unpredictability of life with the uncertainty of choosing a chocolate from a box without a guide.

A figure of Speech is part of a broader category of Figurative Language.

A figure of speech is part of figurative language.

Figurative language encompasses various ways of expressing ideas or thoughts in a non-literal, often more imaginative or expressive manner.

Figures of speech are specific techniques or tools (literary devices) under this broad category, including similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, etc.

The use of figures of speech in storytelling across mediums like literature and film breathes life into narratives.

Authors and filmmakers can convey complex emotions, create vivid imagery, and deepen thematic resonance by leveraging metaphors, similes, personification, and other literary devices.

Up Next: What is Iambic Pentameter?

Jan Sørup

Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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The History of Self-Immolation as Political Protest

Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc is doused with gasoline during a protest demonstration in Saigon, on June 11, 1963.

A U.S. airman died after setting himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 25 in order to protest what he called a “genocide” of Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas war. Aaron Bushnell’s action is part of a long and controversial history of self-immolation as political protest.

In the past, self-immolation has been used as an extreme form of protest against political leaders in Tunisia during the Arab Spring, the Vietnam War, and climate change. And Bushnell isn’t the first to self-immolate in protest of the Israel-Hamas war. In December, an unidentified individual self-immolated outside of the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, in what police described as “likely an extreme act of political protest.” 

Police take security measures and investigate the crime scene after 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell, an active-duty member of the US Air Force, set himself on fire Sunday outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

“It's an act of despair,” says Ralph Young, a history professor at Temple University. “You feel that there's nothing that you can do, or that people are willing to do, so this is the ultimate sacrifice—yourself.” 

Read More: U.S. Serviceman Dies After Setting Self on Fire Outside Israeli Embassy to Protest War in Gaza

The practice of self-immolation dates back centuries, according to ancient Hindu tales of Sati, the wife of a Hindu god who got married without her father’s approval. Some retellings of her life say that Sati burned herself to death on her husband’s funeral pyre, and are used as justification for the practice of ritual suicide that has long been banned in India. Self-immolation was also seen as a sacrificial act committed by Christian devotees who chose to be burned alive when they were being persecuted for their religion by Roman emperor Diocletian ​​around 300 A.D.

One of the first and most well known acts of self-immolation in modern history was conducted by Thich Quang Duc during the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese monk set himself on fire in Saigon in 1963 in protest of the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government backed by the U.S. Several other monks followed his example. 

Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation became one of the most enduring and haunting images of the war. “The average American would have said, ‘Well, we're supporting democracy, and fighting against communism,’ and this image of this monk choosing this terrible way to die to protest against the American government, was really shocking,” says Michael Biggs, associate professor of sociology at Oxford University. 

Read More: Malcolm Browne: The Story Behind The Burning Monk

Some people in the U.S. also self-immolated as a means of protest during the Vietnam War, including a Quaker named Norman Morrison who set himself on fire outside the Pentagon while clinging to his child. 

The tactic has not only been used to protest wars. In India in the 1960s, the practice was used in protest of the implementation of Hindi as a national language. In 2009, a Tibetan monk self-immolated in protest of Chinese rule in Tibet, in an incident that sparked mass protests in Western China. Over 100 monks set themselves on fire over several years. 

More recently, the tactic has been used by climate activists to protest climate change. In 2018, David Buckel, a retired American lawyer, set himself on fire in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. In 2022, climate activist Wynn Alan Bruce set himself on fire at the plaza in front of the Supreme Court. “This act is not suicide,” Kritee Kanko, a climate scientest and friend of Bruce wrote on Twitter following the act. “This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to [the] climate crisis.”

A vigil to honor Wynn Alan Bruce is held in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on April 29, 2022.

”It's the most violent nonviolent type of action. People are killing themselves in an explicitly gruesome way,” says Jack Downey, a professor at the University of Rochester whose research focuses on contemporary justice movements. “They're choosing to end their own life as a public statement. The statement is meant to be shocking, and is meant to articulate their level of grievance.”

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental-health crisis or contemplating suicide, call or text 988. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.

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Putin Says West Risks Nuclear Conflict if It Intervenes More in Ukraine

“We also have weapons that can strike targets on their territory,” Mr. Putin said in an annual speech. “Do they not understand this?”

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Vladimir Putin speaking to a seated audience, alone on a wide stage. A giant screen shows him in close-up.

By Anton Troianovski

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said the West faced the prospect of nuclear conflict if it intervened more directly in the war in Ukraine, using an annual speech to the nation on Thursday to escalate his threats against Europe and the United States.

Mr. Putin said NATO countries that were helping Ukraine strike Russian territory or might consider sending their own troops “must, in the end, understand” that “all this truly threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons, and therefore the destruction of civilization.”

“We also have weapons that can strike targets on their territory,” Mr. Putin said. “Do they not understand this?”

The Russian leader alluded to comments by President Emmanuel Macron of France this week raising the possibility of sending troops from NATO countries to Ukraine, a scenario the Kremlin said would lead to the “inevitability” of a direct conflict between Russia and the Western alliance.

The United States and other Western governments have largely tried to distance themselves from Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory, and Mr. Macron’s remarks about the possibility of Western troops being sent to Ukraine drew quick rebukes from other Western officials, who have ruled out such deployments.

Mr. Putin, however, considers Russian-occupied Ukraine to be Russian territory, and he seized on Mr. Macron’s remarks to amplify his threat. “We remember the fate of those who once sent their contingents to the territory of our country,” Mr. Putin said, an apparent reference to the invasions of Hitler and Napoleon. “But now the consequences for potential interventionists will be much more tragic.”

Mr. Putin’s threats on Thursday came in the opening minutes of his annual state-of-the-nation speech, a keystone event in the Kremlin calendar in which the president declares his plans and priorities in a televised address to hundreds of officials, lawmakers and other members of Russia’s ruling elite.

This year, the speech took on added significance because of Russia’s presidential elections, scheduled for March 15-17, in which Mr. Putin is running for another six-year term. He is assured of winning, but the Kremlin has mounted a concerted publicity campaign ahead of the vote, seeking to use it as a stamp of public approval for Mr. Putin’s rule, and by extension, his war.

The speech came at a geopolitically delicate time: More than two years into the war, Russia has taken the initiative on the battlefield, military aid is stalled in the U.S. Congress, and Western governments are at odds over how best to support Ukraine.

At home, Mr. Putin is showing no sign of slowing his crackdown on the opposition, which suffered a crushing blow with the death of its imprisoned leader, Aleksei A. Navalny .

“Russia’s political system is one of the foundations of the country’s sovereignty,” Mr. Putin said in his speech, suggesting he would continue to stifle what he casts as Western-organized dissent. “We will not let anyone interfere in our domestic affairs.”

Mr. Putin has repeatedly made veiled nuclear threats against the West since he launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, seeking to leverage Russia’s enormous nuclear arsenal to deter Europe and the United States from supporting Ukraine.

He had appeared to dial down that rhetoric in the past year. But on Thursday, he returned to it, coupling his threats with a claim that he was ready to resume arms-control negotiations with the United States — but only, he suggested, if Washington was ready to discuss the war in Ukraine as well.

“Russia is ready for a dialogue with the United States on matters of strategic stability,” Mr. Putin said, a reference to arms-control talks with Washington that had been briefly underway before Russia’s invasion.

In an apparent reference to Ukraine, Mr. Putin added: “This must, naturally, be done only as a single complex, including all those aspects that affect the security of our country.”

Fyodor Lukyanov, a Moscow-based foreign-policy expert close to the Kremlin, said Mr. Putin’s warnings were probably prompted by Mr. Macron’s remark earlier in the week that “nothing should be ruled out” regarding the possibility of a NATO country sending troops to Ukraine.

More broadly, he added, Mr. Putin was responding to Western pledges to provide more powerful arms to Ukraine as Russia’s battlefield advantage grows — including sending Kyiv missiles that could reach deeper inside Russian territory.

“Macron is not the only one who’s starting to say that a Russian victory cannot be accepted,” Mr. Lukyanov said. “In the West, they’re not talking about a peace deal — they’re talking about not letting Russia succeed.”

Mr. Putin’s goal, he said, was to avoid more direct Western involvement in the war and to “achieve negotiations on terms acceptable to Russia.” In Thursday’s speech, Mr. Putin signaled that he wanted those negotiations to encompass not just the future of Ukraine but also “equal and indivisible security in Eurasia.”

Mr. Putin previously sought a sweeping security arrangement with NATO in late 2021 , weeks before he launched his full-scale invasion. At the time, Western officials dismissed Russia’s proposal as a nonstarter, because it would have codified a Russian sphere of influence across the former Soviet Union.

The White House, for its part, has rebuffed Mr. Putin’s efforts to put the United States at the center of any negotiations about the war in Ukraine. American officials have said that the United States has not and will not negotiate on behalf of Ukraine.

Mr. Putin’s threats against the West took up only a few minutes of a speech that lasted more than two hours. Much of the address focused on bread-and-butter domestic issues like highways, health care, energy infrastructure and education.

But Mr. Putin framed all those domestic priorities as being contingent on the success of his invasion of Ukraine, which the Kremlin refers to as the “special military operation.” He offered no new details on the war’s goals or how it might end, saying only that Russia aimed to “root out Nazism” — a reference to his frequent, false claims about Ukraine being run by “Nazis.”

“I will underline the most important thing,” Mr. Putin said at the end of his speech. “The fulfillment of all the targeted plans today depends directly on our soldiers, officers, volunteers — all the military personnel fighting right now on the front.”

It was a signal that Mr. Putin intends to use his March re-election to portray Russia as committed to the war, with the overwhelming majority of the public behind it. Mr. Putin described the war’s soldiers and supporters as Russia’s “true elite,” and unveiled a training program and other measures meant to elevate veterans to management positions in civilian life in areas like government, education and business.

With just more two weeks to go until the election, the Kremlin turned Mr. Putin’s speech into a nationwide event. It was shown on billboards in Moscow and in movie theaters across the country, the Russian state media reported. And on social media, some celebrities rushed to show their fealty.

Among them: the television presenter Nastya Ivleyeva, who hosted the hedonistic, “almost naked” theme party in Moscow in December that became a reckoning for Russian stars seen as insufficiently adhering to the “traditional values” that Mr. Putin venerates.

“I watched the president’s address for the first time this year,” Ms. Ivleyeva wrote on the Telegram social messaging app. “The initiatives and projects that were announced sincerely resonate with me, and I know that I will vote for them.”

Anton Troianovski is the Moscow bureau chief for The Times. He writes about Russia, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. More about Anton Troianovski

Our Coverage of the War in Ukraine

News and Analysis

As the death toll from a Russian strike on an apartment building in the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa rose to 12, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said delays by allies in supplying air defenses had contributed to the deaths .

Russia’s small but rapid gains outside the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka are attributable in part to dwindling Ukrainian ammunition and declining Western aid. But there’s another reason the Kremlin’s troops are advancing: poor Ukrainian defenses .

President Vladimir Putin of Russia said the West faced the prospect of a nuclear conflict  if it intervened more directly in the war in Ukraine , alluding to comments by President Emmanuel Macron of France about the possibility of sending NATO troops to Ukraine .

Holding a Sliver of Hope: A Russian mother knows her son, a conscript, died 14 months ago in a battle in eastern Ukraine. But she is still waiting for him.

A Long Fight: On the second anniversary  of Russia’s invasion, many weary but determined Ukrainians  are taking a longer view of the war , pinpointing the Maidan uprising of 2014 as the start of a 10-year conflict with their adversary.

Sending a Message: Two years since the start of the war in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has fully embraced the image of an unpredictable strongman  ready to escalate his conflict with the West.

How We Verify Our Reporting

Our team of visual journalists analyzes satellite images, photographs , videos and radio transmissions  to independently confirm troop movements and other details.

We monitor and authenticate reports on social media, corroborating these with eyewitness accounts and interviews. Read more about our reporting efforts .

Alexei Navalny, a thorn in Vladimir Putin's side, died. What does it mean for Russia?

Navalny was one of putin's most high-profile critics. he had been imprisoned since 2021, most recently in a penal colony nicknamed 'polar wolf.' it is one of russia's toughest jails..

a figure speech meaning

Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin who survived a poisoning and spent months in isolation, died in an Arctic Circle maximum-security prison, his spokesperson confirmed Saturday.

Kira Yarmysh said Navalny was "murdered" on Feb. 16 at 2:17 p.m. local time. She demanded that his body be handed over to his family amid reports it was "picked up" by investigators.

Navalny's death deprives Russia of one of its most effective −and fearless − political rivals to Putin, who has long silenced his critics . It robs Navalny's many followers and admirers of a charismatic talisman willing to stand up to Putin and has shocked world leaders and human rights groups . But it is unlikely, Russia experts say, to transform or weaken Putin's authoritarian grip on his country.

Already, Russia's security services have moved quickly to stamp out any signs of mass gatherings or demonstrations. About 100 people across eight cities were detained by Russian police as they tried to lay flowers and attend various vigils related to Navalny's death, according to OVD-Info , a Moscow-based independent human rights group and information service that focuses on political persecution in Russia.

Blaming Putin for Navalny's death

Navalny's death was first reported Friday by Russia's state media . The Federal Penitentiary Service of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, where he was being held, said Navalny, 47, "felt unwell" after he went on a walk and "almost immediately lost consciousness."

No cause of death was detailed. The prison service said it tried to resuscitate him without success. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had no information about how Navalny died.

As word of Navalny's death spread, his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, blamed the Kremlin and called for justice. “We cannot believe Putin and his government,” Navalnaya said, addressing an audience at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. “They are lying constantly."

"But if it’s true, I would like Putin and all his staff, everybody around him, his government, his friends, I want them to know that they will be punished for what they have done with our country, with my family and with my husband," she said. "They will be brought to justice, and this day will come soon.”

Navalny: Young Russians mourn death of charismatic opposition leader

World leaders were quick to blame the Russian president. "Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny's death ," President Joe Biden said at White House. "What has happened is yet more proof of Putin’s brutality. No one should be fooled. Not in Russia, not at home, not anywhere in the world.”

And some Russia observers went even further, saying the Russian president was more than simply ''responsible'' for his death.

"Putin killed Navalny," Igor Eidman, a Russian political dissident and political commentator, told USA TODAY. Putin had him "poisoned, imprisoned, rolled into the Arctic Circle, rotted in a punishment cell. But it wasn’t enough for him.''

More: President Biden says 'Putin is responsible for Navalny's death'

Who was Alexei Navalny?

He was a lawyer, an anti-corruption activist and a political prisoner.

Navalny had been a thorn in Putin's side for more than a decade, leading multiple investigations into the wealth of Russia's leader and his inner circle. He attempted to run for president in 2018 but was barred from that vote.

Two years later, he was poisoned by a nerve agent while on a trip to Siberia. After he was treated in Germany he returned home to continue his work. Just before taking off from a Berlin airport, he posted a video to Instagram of his wife quoting a line from a popular Russian crime movie: "Bring us some vodka, boy. We're flying home."

Instead, he was immediately arrested.

More: What to know about Alexei Navalny, Putin's top critic who died in prison.

"Navalny," a film about his poisoning and imprisonment, won an Oscar for best documentary in 2023 .

The dissident was being held in jail on extremism and fraud charges that were widely viewed as retribution for his years at the forefront of the anti-Kremlin opposition. Navalny had been imprisoned since 2021, most recently about 40 miles north of the Arctic Circle in a penal colony nicknamed "Polar Wolf."

It is one of Russia's toughest jails.

He would periodically appear by video link from prison looking gaunt, with his head shaved. Yet he also projected optimism and good spirits. In one video, published in January, he joked that he had not yet received any mail for Christmas. A month earlier, he said, "I'm a special-regime Santa Claus," a reference to his Arctic location.

'They can come for you': For Russian protesters, a free-speech crackdown sharpens threat

What changes in Russia with Alexei Navalny's death?

Erin Baumann, a Russia expert at Boston College, said that Navalny's death was unlikely to lead to mass protests and wouldn't have any impact on Russia's presidential election in March. That vote is seen as a foregone conclusion that will return Putin to power because he has marginalized any effective opposition. Many Russian activists who oppose his government have either fled the country or are themselves imprisoned.

For years, Putin's foes have tended to die in mysterious ways including poisonings, by falling out of windows and even in a plane crash, such as happened to Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin .

Russians escape Putin's war on Ukraine: They find a new home – and a moral dilemma

However, Baumann said that Navalny did put Putin under pressure, especially because he was able to continue some aspects of his activism from behind bars through his vast network inside and outside Russia.

"Navalny undermined Putin," she said.

"He created just enough instability to keep the Putin administration on its back foot."

After Navaly was arrested in 2021, he released a two-hour video investigation on YouTube detailing a luxury mansion on Russia's southern Black Sea coast reportedly belonging to Putin.

The video alleges the mansion sits on a private estate 39 times the size of Monaco, is the largest private home in Russia, and was paid for with "the largest bribe in history." The property has a theater, a casino, a church, a hockey rink, an "aquatic" disco and a hookah lounge with a pole-dancing stage.

Putin denied owning the opulent palace.

A port city, a steel cage, a palace: The steps that made Putin 'the richest man in the world'

"Navalny's message was 'I'm not necessarily right for Russia. I can promise you he (Putin) isn't,'" said Baumann.

Konstantin Sonin, a Russian political economist who knew Navalny personally, said that his death "guarantees" the absence of any real opposition threat to Putin and means "he will never step down peacefully."

Navalny: A source of US-Russia tension

Navalny's fate has also long been one of the many flashpoints between Moscow and Washington. These tensions extend to Moscow's support for rogue states, its alleged cyberattacks and election meddling, and human rights.

"Navalny’s death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights," Biden said in Geneva in 2021 when he last had a face-to-face meeting with Putin.

Biden said he made it clear to Putin the "consequences" of Navalny's death would be "devastating" for Russia.

He did not elaborate.

On Friday, European politicians expressed sorrow and outrage over Navalny's death, pointed out his courage in the face of his imprisonment and said they would ultimately seek to hold Russia accountable.

"Navalny paid with his life for his resistance to a system of oppression. His death in a penal colony reminds us of the reality of Vladimir Putin's regime," said French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné on X , formerly Twitter.

"(He) didn't die in prison, he was killed by the Kremlin's brutality and its aim to silence the opposition. Russia's regime must face consequences. It must be brought to justice," said Lithuania's President Gitanas Nausėda.

Alexei Navalny's legacy

"Navalny was Putin's number one domestic enemy," said Eidman, an exiled Russian political commentator.

"He was a symbol of hope for change, for Russia to become a normal democratic state. He combined the qualities of an effective tough politician and a fiery idealist."

Eidman said Putin was not content to leave Navalny "rotting in a punishment cell."

Sonin, who teaches at the University of Chicago, said that before he was jailed Navalny "was the only person in Russia who could say 'I'm organizing a protest' and thousands of people would show up."

He said there is nobody to replace him.

This is true for Navalnaya, Navalny's wife, too.

"I am asking everyone who is here to unite and help punish the Russian regime," she said.

Contributing: Dan Morrison

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Here’s how Trump won in South Carolina — and what it could mean for his chances in November

Donald Trump won over South Carolina Republicans as the candidate who voters believe can win in November, keep the country safe, and has the mental capability to be president according to AP VoteCast data. (February 25)

a figure speech meaning

Many voters in South Carolina’s Republican primary want a United States that is less willing to openly challenge Russia – a sign of how the Cold War-era GOP establishment has given way to former President Donald Trump’s “America First” ethos. (Feb. 24)

Residents vote at their voting precinct on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at New Bridge Academy in Cayce, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Residents vote at their voting precinct on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at New Bridge Academy in Cayce, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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A resident walks out of their voting precinct after voting on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at New Bridge Academy in Cayce, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Residents walk into their voting precinct after voting on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at New Bridge Academy in Cayce, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A voting sign is seen near a voting center at Croft Baptist Church, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Spartanburg, S.C. The Republican primary is being held today in the state. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump won over South Carolina Republicans as the candidate who voters believe can win in November, keep the country safe and will stand up and fight for them as president.

Trump cruised to victory in the South Carolina primary with the support of an almost unwavering base of loyal voters. AP VoteCast found that Republicans in the state are broadly aligned with Trumps’s goals: Many question the value of supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russia ; and overwhelming majorities see immigrants as hurting the U.S. and suspect that there are nefarious political motives behind Trump’s multiple criminal indictments.

Even in her home state of South Carolina, where she was once governor, Nikki Haley appeared to have little chance against Trump. Just over half of GOP voters had a favorable view of her, whereas about two-thirds had a positive view of Trump.

About 6 in 10 South Carolina voters consider themselves supporters of the “Make America Great Again” movement, a Trump slogan that helped catapult him to the White House in 2016. About 9 in 10 Trump voters said they were driven by their support for him, not by objections to his opponent. Haley’s voters were much more divided: About half were motivated by supporting her, but nearly as many turned out to oppose Trump.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

AP VoteCast is a survey of more than 2,400 voters taking part in Saturday’s Republican primary in South Carolina, conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

HOW TRUMP WON IN SOUTH CAROLINA

Trump’s victory in South Carolina looked remarkably similar to his wins in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary . It’s a sign that regional differences that once existed within the GOP have been supplanted by a national movement that largely revolves around the former president.

Trump, 77, won in South Carolina with voters who are white and do not have a college degree, one of his core constituencies. About two-thirds of Trump’s backers in this election fell into that group.

A majority believe Trump is a candidate who can emerge victorious in November’s general election, while only about half say the same of Haley. Voters were also far more likely to view Trump than Haley as someone who would “stand up and fight for people like you” and to say he would keep the country safe. And 7 in 10 say he has the mental capability to serve effectively as president.

Trump’s voters also backed his more nationalist views — they are more likely than Haley’s supporters to have lukewarm views of the NATO alliance or even consider it bad for the U.S., to say immigrants are hurting the country and to say immigration is the top issue facing the country.

NIKKI HALEY’S POLITICAL FUTURE

At the age of 52, Haley has bet that she can offer a generational change for the GOP. But the future she articulated has little basis in the present-day GOP, even in South Carolina, where she previously won two terms as governor. About 4 in 10 of South Carolina Republicans — including about 6 in 10 of those supporting Trump — say they have an unfavorable opinion of her.

Haley has said she will stay in the race until at least the Super Tuesday primaries, though so far there are no signs that she has disrupted Trump’s momentum. She’s struggled to convince the core of the Republican Party that she’s a better choice than the former president — losing most conservatives and those without a college degree to Trump.

Who is her coalition? Haley dominated among South Carolina voters who correctly said that Democrat Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. Roughly three-quarters of her supporters say Biden was legitimately elected president in 2020, and about 4 in 10 voted for Biden in that election. Her problem is that about 6 in 10 Republican primary voters say they believed Biden was not legitimately elected.

TRUMP’S POTENTIAL WEAKNESSES IN A GENERAL ELECTION

Trump has an iron grip on the Republican base, but that might not be enough of a coalition to guarantee a win in November’s general election.

South Carolina was a chance to show that he can expand his coalition beyond voters who are white, older and without a college degree. But about 9 in 10 of South Carolina’s primary voters were white, making it hard to see if Trump has made inroads with Black voters whom he has attempted to win over .

Haley outpaced Trump among college-educated voters, a relative weakness for him that could matter in November as people with college degrees are a growing share of the overall electorate. Even though South Carolina Republican voters believe that Trump can win in November, some had worries about his viability.

About half of Republican voters in South Carolina — including about a quarter of his supporters — are concerned that Trump is too extreme to win the general election. About 3 in 10 voters believe he acted illegally in at least one of the criminal cases against him, even though about three-quarters  believe the investigations are political attempts to undermine him.

Trump dominates among conservative voters. But his challenge is that those voters were just 37% of the electorate in the November 2020 presidential election. The other 63% identified as moderate or liberal, the two categories that Trump lost to Haley in South Carolina.

AP VoteCast  is a survey of the American electorate conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research for AP and Fox News. The survey of 2,466 Republican primary voters was conducted for five days, concluding as polls close. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The survey combines a random sample of registered voters drawn from state voter files and self-identified registered voters selected from nonprobability online panels. The margin of sampling error for voters is estimated to be plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for Republican primary voters.

JOSH BOAK

Trump's CPAC speech showed clear signs of major cognitive decline — yet MAGA cheered

A confused donald trump kept up his threats of retribution during this weekend's conservative confab, by chauncey devega.

Donald Trump was in his full glory over the weekend at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference. For his MAGA people, Republicans, and other neofascists and followers, Trump is like a father figure, preacher, teacher, confessor, lover, and god messiah prophet all in one person. In that way, CPAC is Donald Trump’s “church family” – only the church is full of fascism, hatred, wickedness, cruelty, and other anti-human values, beliefs, and behavior. Trump masterfully wields and conducts this energy.

Donald Trump’s speech at this year’s CPAC was truly awesome . As used here, “awesome” does not mean good, but instead draws on the word's origins as in "inspiring awe or dread.” In his keynote speech on Saturday, Trump said that America is on a “fast track to hell” under President Biden and the Democrats and that “If crooked Joe Biden and his thugs win in 2024, the worst is yet to come. Our country will sink to levels that are unimaginable."

Trump is an expert on leveraging everyday people’s pain points and personal fear.

He continued with his Hitler-like threats of an apocalyptic end-times battle between good and evil and that the country would be destroyed if he is not installed in the White House. Of course, Trump continued to amplify the Big Lie about the 2020 election being “stolen” from him and the MAGA people. He also made great use of the classic propaganda technique, as though he learned it personally from Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels: Accuse your opposition of that which you are guilty of.

The New York Times detailed Trump’s ominous speech as follows:

If Mr. Biden is re-elected for a second four-year term, Mr. Trump warned in his speech, Medicare will “collapse.” Social Security will “collapse.” Health care in general will “collapse.” So, too, will public education. Millions of manufacturing jobs will be “choked off into extinction.” The U.S. economy will be “starved of energy” and there will be “constant blackouts.” The Islamist militant group Hamas will “terrorize our streets.” There will be a third world war and America will lose it. America itself will face “obliteration.” On the other hand, Mr. Trump promised on Saturday that if he is elected America will be “richer and safer and stronger and prouder and more beautiful than ever before.” Crime in major cities? A thing of the past. “Chicago could be solved in one day,” Mr. Trump said. “New York could be solved in a half a day there.”

Donald Trump has repeatedly shown himself to be a malignant narcissist and white victimologist. In his CPAC speech, he compared himself to pro-democracy activist Alexei Navalny, who died under the authority of Putin’s regime last week. Trump also continued to threaten his and the MAGA movement’s “enemies” with prison or worse as they meet their “judgment day” :

“I stand before you today not only as your past and future president, but as a proud political dissident….“For hard-working Americans Nov. 5 will be our new liberation day — but for the liars and cheaters and fraudsters and censors and impostors who have commandeered our government, it will be their judgment day…. Your victory will be our ultimate vindication, your liberty will be our ultimate reward and the unprecedented success of the United States of America will be my ultimate and absolute revenge.”

Here, Donald Trump sounded like an evil version of President Thomas Whitmore in the 1996 movie “Independence Day.”

He also used stochastic terrorism to encourage violence by his MAGA followers and other supporters with the lie that they are somehow being “victimized” or “persecuted” in America: “I can tell you that weaponized law enforcement hunts for conservatives and people of faith.”  Echoing those themes, Trump, who believes that he is above and outside the rule of law, described his finally being held responsible for his many obvious crimes against American democracy and society as “Stalinist Show Trials," as  The Guardian further details :

Facing 91 criminal charges in four cases, Trump projected himself as both martyr and potential saviour of the nation. “A vote for Trump is your ticket back to freedom, it’s your passport out of tyranny and it’s your only escape from Joe Biden and his gang’s fast track to hell,” he continued. “And in many ways, we’re living in hell right now because the fact is, Joe Biden is a threat to democracy – really is a threat to democracy.” Speaking days after the death of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Trump hinted at a self-comparison by adding: “I stand before you today not only as your past and hopefully future president but as a proud political dissident. I am a dissident.” The crowd whooped and applauded. Trump noted that he had been indicted more often than the gangster Al Capone on charges that he described as “bullshit”. The audience again leaped to their feet, some shaking their fists and chanting: “We love Trump! We love Trump!” Trump argued without evidence: “The Stalinist show trials being carried out at Joe Biden’s orders set fire not only to our system of government but to hundreds of years of western legal tradition. “They’ve replaced law, precedent and due process with a rabid mob of radical left Democrat partisans masquerading as judges and juries and prosecutors.”

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Trump is an expert on leveraging everyday people’s pain points and personal fear. In his CPAC speech, Trump triggered this by focusing on real economic anxieties and feelings of vulnerability and precarity about rising energy costs, the cost of living, and the “American Dream” more broadly.

To this point, President Biden and the Democrats have not been able to effectively counter such attacks by Donald Trump and his spokespeople and other agents. Appeals to the facts about how historically great Biden’s economy is, are no salve for how everyday people are experiencing hardship and increasingly view Donald Trump and Trumpism as a viable alternative to the Democrats and “democracy.”

Trump also spun up a horror story version of the United States as a country overrun by black and brown migrants and “illegal” immigrants who are like the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter from the film “Silence of the Lambs.” Trump’s solution: mass deportations and concentration camps.

During his speech, Donald Trump would continue to valorize the Jan. 6 terrorists who attacked the Capitol as fascist saints and martyrs of the MAGA movement – a group who Trump vowed to pardon when/if he takes power in 2025. They will in turn become his personal shock troops. Trump’s megalomania and claims to god-like power, were on full display during his speech on Saturday, where the ex-president, described himself in the third person, telling the audience that “Trump was right about everything.”

In an excellent article at Mother Jones , Stephanie Mencimer shared what she learned from embedding herself at last week’s CPAC conference (she did not attend as a credentialed reporter) and how in the Age of Trump and American neofascism that event is a festival of extreme right-wing politics and the hatred and intolerance that are among its most defining features:

Exiled from the press pen, I was just part of the audience, a space previously off-limits to reporters. To say the least, it was enlightening. On Friday, for instance, I listened to a main-stage speech from Chris Miller, a Republican running for governor of West Virginia. Because of its tax-exempt status, CPAC bans speakers from openly campaigning there, so he was listed on the program simply as “businessman.” Like virtually every other speaker at the event, Miller devoted several of his allotted five minutes to railing against transgender healthcare. “Woke doctors are literally making boys into girls,” he declared. “They’re practicing mutilation, not medicine. They should be in prison.” At that point, a burly man in a giant black cowboy hat sitting next to me leaned over conspiratorially and proclaimed, “I think we should hang them all! I really do.” And he laughed like we were in on the same joke. I confess that I was too cowardly to tell him I was with the left-wing fake news. Later, during a speech by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, I was sitting next to a woman in full-on MAGA gear. When Noem declared, “There are some people who love America, and there are some people who hate America,” my neighbor gave me a small heart attack. “Get the FUCK OUT!” she yelled furiously, ready to rumble. “Get the FUCK OUT!” Meanwhile, the old man in the camo Trump hat next to her had somehow fallen asleep.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter , Crash Course.

Mencimer then reflected on the devolution of CPAC, describing it as, “[W]hat passed for policy discussions at CPAC this year was largely limited to  mass deportations  and attacks on trans athletes. The sober panels about the national debt, balancing the budget, or Social Security reform that once commanded top billing were a relic of another era before CPAC became an extension of Trump Inc., devoted to all the MAGA grievances like racial equity, the evils of windmills, or  bans on gas stoves .”

During his CPAC speech, Trump continued with his often incoherent and confused way of speaking , rambling(s), memory lapses , and extreme tangents.  Trump defended his apparent speech challenges , saying that, “And by the way, isn't this better than reading off a fricking teleprompter…'They'll say: he rambled. Nobody can ramble like this….Probably I won't get the best speaker this year because I went off this stupid teleprompter.”

Trump’s CPAC speech appears to be further evidence of what psychiatrist John Gartner concluded  “appears to be ... gross signs of dementia. This is a tale of two brains. Biden's brain is aging. Trump's brain is dementing.” 

However, one must be cautious and understand that Trump’s apparent mental, emotional, and overall cognitive decline, and other indications of a damaged mind, are largely irrelevant to his followers. Donald Trump is a symbol more than a man. His MAGA people and other loyalists and voters ignore, reconcile, and more generally make sense of Trump’s apparent cognitive and speech difficulties by telling themselves that he is “just like them” and “speaks a language they can understand” because he is “authentic” and “not a traditional politician." By definition, the Dear Leader is infallible. Fake right-wing populism can be bent and shaped to accommodate any absurdity.

Donald Trump’s speech at CPAC is but more evidence that he is giving his MAGA people and other followers and supporters in the Republican Party and the larger right-wing and “conservative” movement what they want. Public opinion polls and other research have consistently shown that there are tens of millions of Americans who yearn for an American dictator or others strongman-type leader, who will “break the rules” to “get things done” for “people like them.” In addition, Republican and other Trump voters specifically support his taking power as a dictator and ending democracy. And as has been widely documented, a significant percentage of white voters do not support democracy if it means that their “racial” group does not have the most influence and power and privilege in American society as compared to black and brown people.

Donald Trump and today’s Republican Party and the larger right-wing and neofascist movement have successfully tapped into what is a centuries-old vein of white supremacist herrenvolk nightmare dreams and white rage in American society and life. The CPAC conference featured speakers and panels that reinforced that today’s Republican Party and “conservative movement” have rejected multiracial pluralistic democracy and seek to replace it with a White Christofascist Apartheid plutocracy.

In contrast to Donald Trump’s awfully awesome speech at CPAC on Saturday, President Biden solemnly warned reporters, again, that the 2024 Election is an existential battle for the country’s democracy and the soul of the nation where our most fundamental freedoms as Americans are imperiled.

In a recent essay here at Salon, Brian Karem reflected on his personal experience with such peril :

The most disturbing thing I’ve ever heard a president say did not come from Donald Trump. It came from Joe Biden. Speaking with reporters in California on Thursday, the president said this  about  Donald Trump. “Two of your former colleagues not at the same network personally told me if he wins, they will have to leave the country because he’s threatened to put them in jail,” Biden told Katie Couric. “He embraces political violence,” Biden said of Trump “No president since the Civil War has done that. Embrace it. Encourages it.” Perhaps I should have been shocked at the revelation that Trump, should he return to power, would jail reporters. I wasn’t of course. I had to fight him (and beat him) three times in court during his first administration to keep my White House press pass. I had already privately heard Trump’s threats. It was just disturbing to hear Joe Biden confirm it publicly. … That is why the world cannot see Trump back in the White House. He knows nothing but divisiveness. And Biden was right to point out that Trump wants to jail reporters. Trump supporters don’t care. But I’ve eaten Texas jail food, so I do. When Einstein fled Germany he fled the poison of nationalism and longed for a country of civil liberty and tolerance. The closest he found was here in the United States. Where is it today? More importantly, where will it be after the November general election?

As always, believe the autocrat-dictator or other such political thug. He or she – in this case Donald Trump – is not kidding or joking.

Echoing Karem’s experience, I have talked to members of the pro-democracy movement (specifically journalists and reporters), and they have shared with me how they are in the process of deciding if they will stay here in the United States or flee the country if Dictator Trump and his regime takes power in 2025.

On Election Day, which will be here very soon, the American people have a choice to make. Last weekend’s CPAC conference was just one more escalation in the direct and transparent threats and dangerousness of Trumpism and American neofascism. If Trump wins on Election Day, the American people cannot say they were surprised by the hell he and his regime and followers will unleash on the country. The American people were told repeatedly what would happen and through both their active and tacit support for Trumpism and neofascism (indifference or otherwise not voting for President Biden and by implication American democracy in this decisive moment) allowed it to happen. How great is the American people’s drive to self-destruction? We will soon find out in eight or so months.

about CPAC in the Trumpocene

  • CPAC can't quench MAGA's thirst
  • "A Christian politician cannot be racist": Viktor Orbán brings his far-right pep rally to CPAC Texas
  • CPAC Hungary, Day 1: Conservatives embrace plan for "vast right-wing conspiracy
  • Kari Lake, Steve Bannon and a side of Orwell: My adventures at CPAC 2023

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at  Chaunceydevega.com . He also hosts a weekly podcast,  The Chauncey DeVega Show . Chauncey can be followed on  Twitter  and  Facebook .

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a figure speech meaning

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  1. 25 Important Figures of Speech with Easy Examples • 7ESL

    a figure speech meaning

  2. 8 Types of Figure of Speech, Definition and Examples

    a figure speech meaning

  3. Name The Figure Of Speech Meaning

    a figure speech meaning

  4. 25 Figure of Speech Examples and Expressions

    a figure speech meaning

  5. Figures of Speech with Examples: A figure of speech is a mode of

    a figure speech meaning

  6. All Figure of Speech With Examples

    a figure speech meaning

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  1. FIGURES OF SPEECH/PART 1

  2. Figure of Speech

  3. Figure of speech

  4. Figures Of Speech| English grammar|

  5. Figure of speech in English... Clear explanation in Telugu...part...1

  6. Figure of speech, Poetic device and Literary device

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  1. Figure of speech Definition & Meaning

    The meaning of FIGURE OF SPEECH is a form of expression (such as a simile or metaphor) used to convey meaning or heighten effect often by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning or connotation familiar to the reader or listener. How to use figure of speech in a sentence.

  2. 20 Types of Figures of Speech, With Definitions and Examples

    Some figures of speech, like metaphor, simile, and metonymy, are found in everyday language. Others, like antithesis, circumlocution, and puns take more practice to implement in writing. Below are some common figures of speech with examples, so you can recognize them and use them in your writing. Give your writing extra polish.

  3. Figure of Speech

    A figure of speech is a literary device in which language is used in an unusual—or "figured"—way in order to produce a stylistic effect. Figures of speech can be broken into two main groups: figures of speech that play with the ordinary meaning of words (such as metaphor, simile, and hyperbole ), and figures of speech that play with the ...

  4. Figure of Speech

    Figure of speech is a powerful tool to enhance the meaning and expression of language. It can create vivid images, emphasize emotions, and convey messages in different ways. In this webpage, you will find the definition and a list of various types of figure of speech, such as metaphor, simile, personification, hyperbole, and more. You will also see how they are used in literature by famous ...

  5. Figure of Speech: Definition and Examples

    In common usage, a figure of speech is a word or phrase that means something more or something other than it seems to say—the opposite of a literal expression. As Professor Brian Vickers has observed, "It is a sad proof of the decline of rhetoric that in modern colloquial English the phrase 'a figure of speech' has come to mean something false, illusory or insincere."

  6. Figure of speech

    figure of speech, any intentional deviation from literal statement or common usage that emphasizes, clarifies, or embellishes both written and spoken language. Forming an integral part of language, figures of speech are found in oral literatures as well as in polished poetry and prose and in everyday speech. Greeting-card rhymes, advertising ...

  7. FIGURE OF SPEECH

    FIGURE OF SPEECH definition: 1. an expression that uses words to mean something different from their ordinary meaning: 2. an…. Learn more.

  8. FIGURE OF SPEECH definition

    FIGURE OF SPEECH meaning: 1. an expression that uses words to mean something different from their ordinary meaning: 2. an…. Learn more.

  9. Figure of speech

    A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that intentionally deviates from ordinary language use to produce a rhetorical effect. Figures of speech are traditionally classified into schemes, which vary the ordinary sequence of words, and tropes, where words carry a meaning other than what they ordinarily signify.. An example of a scheme is a polysyndeton: the repetition of a ...

  10. Figures of Speech: Definition and Examples

    A figure of speech is a word or phrase using figurative language—language that has other meaning than its normal definition. In other words, figures of speeches rely on implied or suggested meaning, rather than a dictionary definition. We express and develop them through hundreds of different rhetorical techniques, from specific types like ...

  11. Meaning of a figure of speech in English

    a figure of speech meaning: an expression that uses words to mean something different than what they usually mean: . Learn more.

  12. Figure of Speech: Explanation and Examples

    A Broader Definition of Figure of Speech Some sources do not differentiate between "a figure of speech" and "figurative language," meaning the two terms are often used interchangeably. As a result, you may encounter the following alternative definition for "figure of speech": Figure of speech: the use of words in an unusual or imaginative manner.

  13. Figure of Speech Meaning, Examples, Definition, Types, List

    A figure of speech is a way of describing something or someone interestingly and vividly. The words or phrases may not mean exactly what they suggest, but they paint a clear picture in the mind of the reader or listener. A figure of speech can be in the form of a phrase or a single word. The figures of speech are also knowns as rhetorical figures.

  14. Figurative Language

    Dictionary definition of figurative language: According to the dictionary, figurative language is simply any language that contains or uses figures of speech. This definition would mean that figurative language includes the use of both tropes and schemes. Much more common real world use of figurative language: However, when people (including ...

  15. Figures of Speech

    Definition of a Figure of Speech. A figure of speech, according to the Oxford Learner's Dictionary, is defined as "a word or phrase used in a different way from its usual meaning in order to create a particular mental picture or effect." The Cambridge Dictionary defines a figure of speech as "an expression that uses words to mean ...

  16. FIGURE OF SPEECH Definition & Usage Examples

    Figure of speech definition: . See examples of FIGURE OF SPEECH used in a sentence.

  17. Figure of Speech Examples by Type

    A figure of speech is a key device used in literature as well as everyday life. Gain insight into the different types with these figure of speech examples. ... A figure of speech is a word or phrase that possesses a separate meaning from its literal definition. It can be a metaphor or simile designed to make a comparison.

  18. 25 Important Figures of Speech with Easy Examples • 7ESL

    Antanaclasis. Antanaclasis is a figure of speech in which a word is repeated within the same sentence or clause, but with a different or opposing meaning each time. It serves to create emphasis on a particular point and often adds a playful or humorous tone to the writing. Example: "Your argument is sound…all sound!".

  19. Figure of Speech in Literature: Definition & Examples

    Figure of Speech Definition. Figures of speech (FIG-yurs of SPEEchuh) are words or phrases used in a non-literal sense for rhetorical effect. They are often constructed using literary devices such as metaphor , simile , alliteration, metonymy, synecdoche, and personification. Figures of speech allow writers to apply familiar ideas and imagery ...

  20. What Are Figures of Speech? Definition & 100+ Examples

    Figures of speech are expressive language devices used to add color, depth, and creativity to our communication. They go beyond the literal meaning of words and phrases, employing stylistic and imaginative techniques to convey ideas more vividly and engagingly. By intentionally manipulating words and phrases, figures of speech create richer and ...

  21. The Top 20 Figures of Speech

    The Top 20 Figures of Speech. Illustration by Hugo Lin. ThoughtCo. A figure of speech is a rhetorical device that achieves a special effect by using words in a distinctive way. Though there are hundreds of figures of speech, here we'll focus on 20 top examples. You'll probably remember many of these terms from your English classes.

  22. Figure of Speech

    Figure of speech can easily catch eyes and highlight the purpose of use. It is designed to make a comparison and create a dramatic factor while writing or speaking. Basically, it is a figurative language that may consist of a single word or phrase. ... It may be a simile, a metaphor or personification to convey the meaning other than the ...

  23. Figure of Speech: Meaning & Examples from Literature & Film

    Definition: A figure of speech is a rhetorical device that employs words in a non-literal, often imaginative way to convey meanings, emphasize ideas, or evoke emotions. It includes metaphors, similes, personification, and hyperbole, enhancing the expressiveness and richness of language by transcending ordinary usage.

  24. The History of Self-Immolation as Political Protest

    A U.S. airman died after setting himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 25 in order to protest what he called a "genocide" of Palestinians in the Israel ...

  25. Putin Warns West of Nuclear War if It Intervenes More in Ukraine

    The speech came at a geopolitically delicate time: More than two years into the war, Russia has taken the initiative on the battlefield, military aid is stalled in the U.S. Congress, and Western ...

  26. Alexei Navalny, Putin critic and opposition figure, dies in prison

    Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin who survived a poisoning and spent months in isolation, died in an Arctic Circle maximum-security prison, his spokesperson ...

  27. Here's how Trump won South Carolina's Republican primary

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump won over South Carolina Republicans as the candidate who voters believe can win in November, keep the country safe and will stand up and fight for them as president. Trump cruised to victory in the South Carolina primary with the support of an almost unwavering base of loyal voters. AP VoteCast found that Republicans in the state are broadly aligned with Trumps ...

  28. Watch Jill Biden slam Trump during speech

    First lady Dr. Jill Biden stepped up her rhetoric against Donald Trump during a speech at an event to mobilize female voters in Atlanta.

  29. Trump's CPAC speech showed clear signs of major cognitive decline

    Trump is an expert on leveraging everyday people's pain points and personal fear. In his CPAC speech, Trump triggered this by focusing on real economic anxieties and feelings of vulnerability ...

  30. Mitch McConnell to step down from GOP leadership position in the Senate

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will step down as GOP leader in November, the Kentucky Republican announced Wednesday, marking the end of an era on Capitol Hill and setting up a high-stakes ...