70 Figures of Speech and Their Meanings

We shouldn’t go straight to the said 70 figures of speech, and their meaning, without knowing what a figure of speech is.

What are figures of speech?

A figure of speech are words or phrases that implicate an intentional digression from the ordinary use of language, to enrich a literary work.

You are more likely to discover one, or more new figures of speech, here. As stated in the title, there are over 60 figures of speech present in this article.

I’m convinced that some of these figures will be new to you. The reason is that this article comprises both common and uncommon figures, as a result of my broad research. 

Before we go further, please do note that the examples given in this post, will not touch all of the provided figures of speech.

However, you will get their various meanings. 

 1. Metaphor 

 2. Simile

 3. Personification

 4. Irony

 5. Sarcasm

 6. Apostrophe

 7. Antithesis

 8. Hyperbole

 9. Paradox

10. Litotes 

11. Meiosis

12. Epigram

13. Euphemism

14. Antinomasia

15. Metonymy

16. Synecdoche 

17. Alliteration

18. Assonance

19. Onomatopoeia

20. Anthropomorphism

21. Consonance

22. Pun

23. Bathos

24. Climax

25. Anti-Climax

26. Chiasmus

27. Eulogy

28. Metaphrase

29. Syllepsis

30. Hendiadys

31. Paraleipsis

32. Prolepsis

33. Asyron 

34. Cataphora 

35. Ellipsis

36. Dysphemism 

37. Merism 

38. Oxymoron

39. Zeugma

40. Accismus 

41. Paronomasia

42. Anapotodon 

43. Hyperbation

44. Accumulatio

45. Acutezza 

46. Acoloutha

47. Tricolon 

48. Tmesis

49. Syndeton 

50. Proverb 

51. Sentetia 

52. Parrhesia

53. Cacophony

54. Brevitas

55. Bomphiologia 

56. Aureaction 

57. Antaclasis

58. Exemplum 

59. Hyperbaton 

60. Heterosis 

61. Innuendo

62. Rhyme

63. Paroemion 

64. Merismos

65. Isocolon

66. Homophone 

67. Exergasia

68. Crasis

69. Correctio

70. Autoclesis 

70 Figures Of Speech And Their Meanings


One of the most commonly used figures of speech is a metaphor. If you have not heard about it before, then you may not be able to recollect that you have used it before. Certainly, you must have used the figure of speech, Metaphor before, either consciously or unconsciously.

Definition: Precisely, Metaphor is a direct comparison of two things. 

In other words, a Metaphor could be referred to as an identity assigned to one subject by way of another.

In metaphor, one thing is been compared to another, without the use of as or like. 

Two perfect examples of Metaphor are given below:

 1.  Wizkid is our Drake.

 2.  Musa is a Tiger on the Battlefield.

In the examples above, you will notice a direct comparison of two subjects in each of the sentences, without the use of as or like. 

For instance, in the first example, we get to know that the only foreign singer that we can compare Wizkid with, is Drake. This should make you know that they have some things in common. 

  1. SIMILE:

Simile, as a figure of speech, helps to draw parallel, or comparison between two similar or dissimilar subjects. The comparison is done, with the use of ‘as’ or ‘like.’

Definition: The comparison of two things, with the use of ‘as,’ ‘like,’ as ‘though,’ ‘as if.’

Some examples of Simile are:

1. Ronaldo plays like Messi on the field.

2. My poem is as lengthy as your poem.

3. He acts as if he’s a novice. 

For a better understanding of Simile, let’s take a look at the poem below:-

      Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

      How I wonder what you are

      Up above the world so high

      Like a diamond in the sky

Do you observe the use of Simile, as a figure of speech in the poem? If No, then I guess you didn’t read it carefully.

The use of Simile in the poem can be found in the last line, where the word ‘like’ has been used for a direct comparison between the Star and a Diamond.


Even when we omit the word comparison, in the definition of Personification, we still can’t take away the similarity between them, Personification and Metaphor, away. 

Definition: It’s the act of attaching Human features to inanimate objects.

Whenever you attach the feature of a Human being to a non-living thing, you have to practice this figure of speech. 

A common feature between Metaphor and Personification is comparison. Although, it may not be seen in Personification, most times.

Some examples of the use of personification are:

 1. The weather is harsh.

 2. My pen is angry.

 3. The cloud is pregnant.

 4. The sun is smiling at me.

 5. The moon sees me.

For goodness sake, none of the objects above can do the things they were said to have done. 

Note that Personification is not used to tell lies. One of its functions is to beautify a literary work.

For instance, when your poem begins with the sentence:

‘I never thought my pen was gonna smile again.’ 

It will help to bring out a sharp picture of your expression. 

  1. IRONY:

One is said to be ironic, when he or she says or writes one thing, but means something different.

Definition: Hence, Irony is an expression that means something opposite. 

In other words, it entails the difference between what we say and what we mean. 

We use this, to say something when in reality, we mean to say the opposite. 

This is also, one of the most commonly used figures of speech. It’s so common, that even uneducated people use it. 

For Example:

 1. The best way to avoid drinking, is to keep bad company.

 2. Dangote is so poor, that he became the richest man in Africa. 

 3. Anthony Joshua is so lazy, that he has four belts at a time. 

Read Also: The concept of literary irony  


Sarcasm is a better way to use Irony. Sarcasm is liable to wound the feeling of a character in a play/novel. 

Definition: An advanced form of verb Irony, with a scornful comment, or remark. 

For Example:

[The quoted sentences, are the sarcastic expression]

 1. When something bad happens to you, and someone says, ‘This is exactly what you need!’

 2. After a long day of work, a man returns home, and says, ‘I have been working hard for years, for us to be this poor.’ 

 3. When someone steps on your shoe and you say; ‘very good, keep up the good work.’


This is one of the craziest figures of speech you can employ in your literary works. 

Oftentimes, the use of an apostrophe in a play will help you get your audience touched\moved. 

Definition: Talking to someone or something that can not hear you, as if they are listening to you. 

For example:

 1. Death, where have you taken John to? 

 2. Speaking to your child who is not at home, ‘Peter, don’t stay late outside.’ 

In most cases, especially in a drama. People who lost their loved ones, use this figure of speech, to show how lost they are. 


This figure of speech is like a proverb, in the sense that wisdom is often hidden in it, with the use of opposing words/ideas. 

Definition: It’s a figure of speech, where two opposite words or ideas in the same sentence, contrast each other. 

Antithesis unlike Oxymoron, and some other figure of speech, is used to lay emphasis. 

For Example:

 1.  United we stand, departed we fall. 

[With the adoption of Antithesis, there is an obvious emphasis on the first expression, ‘United we stand.’ Another function Antithesis played in the sentence, is to let us know that Unity is important.]

 2.  Many are called, but few are chosen. 

 3. Money is the root of all evil, and poverty is the fruit of all goodness.


This figure of speech makes something smaller sound bigger. Hyperbole could also be referred to as exaggeration. It should be clearer to you, now, that you know it’s an exaggeration. Just that!

Definition: Hyperbole is a deliberate exaggeration. 


 1. I will die for you, If you give me your heart.

 2. Austin can empty River Jordan if he’s thirsty. 

It is impossible to do any of the things said in the examples above. In the first example, a man who wants to win the mind of a lady is promising to ‘die for her,’ if she can give him, ‘her heart.’ In reality, none of them can do any of the two things said. 

River Jordan is a very mighty river. Yet, we were told that one person’s stomach can have it all. Very impossible!


You will never get the interpretation of a paradox when you don’t pay full attention to the sentence. 

Definition: Paradox is a figure of speech, that hides the truth, from cursory lookers.


A paradox is a self-contradictory statement, who’s meaning is not noticeable.

Hence, only people who pay attention to paradoxical statements will get to know the hidden truth…

For Example, it’s paradoxical to say that:

 1. Attack is the best form of defense.

 2. I must be cruel to be kind.

You can’t defend yourself, without attacking your attacker. But because of the difference in these words, someone who does not pay attention to the sentence will see no meaning in it. 


Litotes is the opposite of Hyperbole. Rather than exaggerating, litotes understates the quality of something.

Definition: It’s a figure of speech, that negatively puts positive remarks.

Whenever your statement underrates someone or something,  you should be sure that you have to use Litotes. 

It’s also the adoption of litotes, when you make a positive sentence, negatively. 

Some examples of the use of Litotes are:

 1. Instead of saying someone is looking beautiful, you say, ‘Princess, you are not bad.’

 2. It’s no laughing matter.  

3. I must multiply them, and they shall not be few. 


Simply put, Meiosis is the synonyms [used instead] of Litotes. It could also be referred to as Litotes. 


This figure of speech is more like Paradox, Proverb, and Antithesis. A common feature Epigram has with a proverb, is the length of its words.

Definition: Epigram is a witty saying that employs both Antithesis and paradox, to convey its meaning in a contradictory manner. 

Some examples are:

 1. He who laughs last, laughs best.

 2. The child is the father of the man.

The examples above could also be a perfect example of Paradox and Antithesis. The second sentence may be difficult for you to explain. It means that when the father of the child is old, the child is the one who will take care of him. 


You have euphemized, when you don’t call a bad thing, by its proper name. 

Definition: The use of a less offensive word, in substitute for an offensive\harsh word. 

For example:

 1. Grandpa has kicked the bucket. [Instead of saying she died.]

 2. Janet has been put in the family way. [Instead of saying that Janet is Pregnant.]


Antinomasia is a figure of speech derived from a Greek word, ‘Onoma,’ which means ‘a name.’ 

Definition: Antinomasia, is the replacement of a title, for a name.

In this figure of speech, somebody’s office or fame is given to another person, in the same office or fame. Sometimes, the name of well-known people is attached to other people of the corresponding status name. 

For example:

 1. Wole Soyinka is the African Shakespeare. 

 2. Kano, is the Mecca of Nigerian Muslims.


It’s more like the use of Synonyms in the English Language. 

Definition: The practice of exchanging an original word with a word related to it. 

For Example:

 1. ‘Washington, D.C. ‘ in place of The United States Government.


In Synecdoche, we use a part or unit of something, to refer to the whole. 

Definition: it’s a figure of speech, that uses a part of something to refer to the whole of it.

For Example:

 1. Weary feet in the walk of life.

 2. I need more hands to complete the work.


Alliteration is otherwise known as a beginning rhyme.

Definition: The repetition of the same consonant sounds at the beginning of each line in a verse/stanza of a poem.

For Example:

 1. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper.

 2. Sing a song of sixpence. 


Assonance is the opposite of Alliteration.

Definition: The repetition of the same vowel sounds in a line. 

Some examples of Assonance are:

 1. Hole, Goal, Role

 2. Tall loud and laugh aloud. 


It is easy to suggest the meaning of an Onomatopeic word, with the way it sounds. The figure of speech could also be referred to as echoic verse. 

Definition: The use of words, whose sounds help to insinuate the meaning. 


 1. Tick, tack says the clock. 

 2. The enemy’s uprising has been crunched.


Meaning: The act of giving human qualities to a non-living thing. 

If you have been reading through, from the very beginning of this article, can you recall to yourself, a figure of speech similar to this? 

Well… Personification is another figure of speech, that does the same thing Anthropomorphism does.

I will provide an example for this element, should you have forgotten. 

For Example:

 1.  Rain beats me yesterday. 


Consonance is synonymous with Alliteration.  They both have ‘consonant sounds repetition,’ in common.

Definition: It is the agreement of consonant sounds, at the middle or the end of a line. 


 1. Don’t let the pets bite you.

  1.  PUN:

Pun has the function of causing laughter in a situation. 

Definition: Pun, otherwise known as wordplay, is a comical play on words. 

For Instance:

 1. Better late than be late.

  1. BATHOS:

Definition: Bathos, is the act of changing suddenly, from something impressive to something foolish. 

For Example:

 1. Better to be a king in Hell than to serve in Heaven.

 2. It’s better to be poor in the United States than to be poor in Nigeria. 

  1. CLIMAX:

This common sentence:

 1. I came, I saw, and I conquered.

…Is a typical example of climax.

Hence, Climax is the organization of ideas, in an uprising/ascending format. 

It simply means, putting down an idea, from the minor to the major point. Just as you can see in the example above.


Yeah, it is the antonym of Climax. Instead of putting ideas in ascending order, we make them in descending order, here. 

For Example:

 1. I bought a house, a bike, and a pair of shoes. 


Definition: The way of having a contrast, by the reversal of clauses. 


 1. Dangerous cult kills, killing is a dangerous cult. 

 2. Don’t pray to live, live to pray.

  1. EULOGY:

To eulogize means to praise.

For Example:

Wole Soyinka is the world’s best English professor he’s an idol.


Definition: The act of changing a verse into prose, or prose into a verse. 


In Syllepsis, a word is used in two different senses, in the same sentence. 

For Example:

 1. Sometimes, he takes tea, sometimes bread. 

In the example above, ‘he takes,’ works in two senses, for the tea and the bread. 


In Hendiadys, a single idea is illustrated by two words that are connected by a conjunction. 

For Example:

 1. This article is good medicine and a solution for the identification of figures of speech.


Definition: The act of concentrating on a subject by pretending to disregard it. 

For instance, ‘I will not speak of his death.’


In this figure of speech, one considers things that are yet to happen, as if they have passed.

For Instance, when a student studying hard for an examination says;

‘Having studied hard, I have got A’s in all my courses.

  1. ACYRON:

Acyron, is just like Irony. It’s the act of using a word, opposite to what you meant.


In literature, Cataphora is the practice of using a word, to refer to the word/idea you are yet to use. 


It’s the omission of words that would make the sentence denotative.


Definition: Replacing a simple word, with a stronger one.

  1. MERISM:

Definition: Merism is the combination of words for meaning beyond the usual mixture.

Figures of Speech and Their Meaning

Definition: The side by side use of opposite words to create a sharp contrast, to catch the attention of the reader. 

For instance:

1. What a sweet sorrow?

2. Emeka cried joyfully.


An allusion is a casual reference to a figure or an event.


It’s a synonym of pun. Hence, Paronomasia means playing on words. 


Definition: Omitting clause for a deliberate effect.


Definition: Separating words that are supposed to be together.


Definition: Drawing points, into a powerful conclusion. 


Definition: Acutezza is the adoption of wordplay.


Simply put, Acoloutha is a literary term that means a mutual alteration of words.


Meaning: Tricolon is three elements improving power. 

  1. TMESIS:

Definition: Putting a word in the middle of another. 


Syndeton, in literature, is the use of conjunction words.


A proverb is a short witty saying that has a pearl of unquestionable wisdom.


Definition: Quoting wisdom to establish the fact.


Parrhesia may be defined as the boldness in a person’s speech. 


Meaning: A harsh combination of words.


Definition: A concise utterance.


Bomphiologia is a boastful speech.


The use of flamboyant words for impression purposes.


Antaclasis is a common type of Pun. In Antaclasis, a word is repeated twice, to give a new meaning to the second occurrence.

For Example:

1. Your argument is sound, nothing but sound.


It’s the use of examples, either imaginary or real.

  1. ECPHONESIS: It’s a short exclamation.

Meaning: It means changing the form of a verb.


Meaning: Innuendo is a devious allusion. It is a way to refer to something or someone without necessarily spelling it out; you pass intended messages in a way that listeners do the proper interpretation job. 

  1. RHYME:

Definition: Recounting sounds at the end of words in a line.


The over usage of Alliteration. 


Merimos is a complete illustration, or whereabouts. Wiktionary defined it as, “A metonymic term to describe a type of synecdoche in which two parts of a thing, perhaps contrasting or complementary parts, are made to stand for the whole.”


Isocolon, phrases with multiple similarities.


Definition: Different words that sound the same.

For example:

Here & Hear

Year & Ear 

Gun & Gone.


Rewording a point in different words. 


Compression of two vowels into a longer sound. 


Correction to reverse meaning. Just like what the figure appears to be.


Bringing up an idea by hesitating to discuss it. The concept of autoclesis is not far from that of innuendo. 

  1. ZEUGMA:

Definition: Linking one word to two or more words, but appropriate to just one of the words.

For Example: 

 1. Janet took her purse, and her leave.

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