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Figures of Speech by Type

Scholars group figures of speech into different types. There is no authoritative list. The following types may be helpful. They may change over time. Some figures of speech fall into more than one type. Some types overlap. Figures of speech can be searched below by type or here by name.

Addition

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Rhetorical figures of Addition use either more words than necessary or the words invoke more meanings than expected.

Arrangement

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Words and or their meanings are arranged in a structured order or they are deliberately misplaced from the order that is expected.

Comparison

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Figures of speech that compare two ideas or situations either in terms of their similarities or differences are common in everyday conversations. Analogies and similes are frequently invoked to illustrate or prove a point. In literature, these figures achieve artistic dimensions and often operate on multiple levels.

Omission

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These figures of speech may omit letters, syllables, words, or ideas. They may even just include a pause for silence.

Parallelism

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Parallelism is a specific form of Arrangement, Comparison and Repetition. Sentences or clauses are balanced in a similar or inverse order, one part mirroring the other.

Repetition

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Scholars joke that the three R’s of rhetoric are repetition, repetition and repetition. An orator’s success in part depends on an auditor’s ability to understand and remember what the orator said. That is enhanced if an orator adheres to the old adage, “Tell them what you’re you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said.” From this principle, a plethora of rhetorical devices evolved rooted in the art of repetition.

Substitution

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Figures of substitution replace an expected word, gender, part of speech, sensory response, etc., with something unexpected.

Word Play

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Word play is the figurative category that Shakespeare and Groucho Marx shared most in common. A pun is only the most widely known type of word play. There are other ways to play with words.