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Substitution

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

Acyrologia

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An unintended use of the wrong word often by someone attempting to sound educated or erudite. “O, villain! Thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this!” Much Ado About Nothing, 4.2.38. The modern term for this figure is Malapropism.

Anthimeria

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Substitution of one part of speech for another. A word is used as a different part of speech than it usually is. “When the rain came to wet me once and the wind to make me chatter, when the thunder would not peace at my bidding,” King Lear, 4.6.114.

Anthropomorphism

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Portraying an animal with human abilities, e.g. speaking. Differs from Personification, which rhetorically portrays inanimate objects or abstractions with having human characteristics. “When in that moment, so it came to pass, / Titania waked and straightway loved an ass.” Midsummer Night’s Dream, 3.2.1

Catachresis

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An implied or mixed metaphor, in which usually a verb or adjective are misapplied to the noun they reference. “Lent him our terror, dressed him with our love,” Measure for Measure. 1.1.3. Related to Hyperbole and Synaesthesia.

Enallage

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Intentionally using a different gender, person, case, number, or tense when another is expected to characterize a speaker or to create a memorable phrase. “This dream of mine— / Being now awake, I’ll queen it no inch farther, / But milk my ewes and weep.” Winter’s Tale, 4.4.490.

Erotema

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Classical term for a Rhetorical Question.

Euphemism

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Substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit.

Hypallage

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Also called a Transferred Epithet.

Irony

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Use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. “Prodigious birth of love it is to me / That I must love a loathèd enemy.” Romeo and Juliet, 1.5.152

Litotes

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An understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite. “He hath not failed to pester us with message.” Hamlet, 1.2.1

Malapropism

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A modern term for the classical rhetorical figure Acyrologia, a malapropism is confused use of words in which an appropriate word is replaced by a similar-sounding but often ludicrously inappropriate meaning. Malapropism is a neologismA new, deliberately invented word. inspired by the name of the character Mrs. Malaprop (which is an abbreviated portmanteauA neologism created by combining two words. for mal-appropriate) in Richard Sheridan’s The Rivals, 1775. For examples in Shakespeare, see Acyrologia.

Metonymy

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Metonymy is a type of metaphor that substitutes a related attribute for what is meant. If someone asks how many plates there are going to be at dinner, they’re asking about the number of guests. Plates are not parts of the guests, they’re related to dinner guests. This is different from synecdoche, in which a part of a person or thing refers to the whole, or vice versa. In “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” “head” is a synecdoche for the whole person of the king while “crown” is a metonymy for the responsibilities of the monarchy.

Onomatopoeia

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Use of words to imitate natural sounds. “Bow-wow. / Hark, hark! I hear / The strain of strutting chanticleer / Cry cock-a-diddle-dow.” The Tempest, 1.2.452

Paronomasia

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Word play, especially involving words with similar sounds but more than one meaning. “Now is the winter or our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York…” Richard III, 1.1.1. Related to Adnominatio and Polyptoton.

Periphrasis

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The use of a somewhat elaborate description for what is normally a common word, phrase or proper name — or of a proper name, e.g., “Venus” for a description, i.e, “beautiful and seductive.” “Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope / The Lord’s anointed temple and stole thence / The life o’ th’ building.” Macbeth, 2.3.73. A type of Circumlocution — excessive words are used in a roundabout manner; also see Ambage — excessive words used to create ambiguity or misdirection.

Personification

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An inanimate object or abstraction is endowed rhetorically with human qualities or abilities. “Nor shall Death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,” Sonnet 18. Differs from Anthropomorphism, which portrays animals as having human abilities such as speaking.

Prosopopoeia

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Form of personification in which an inanimate object gains the ability to speak.

Pun

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

Rhetorical Question

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A question whose answer is so obvious that an answer is not expected. “For who so firm that cannot be seduc’d?” Julius Caesar, 1.2.320. Also see Rogatio.

Synecdoche

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This is a specific type of metaphor in which a part of an object or person is used for the whole, or conversely the whole for the part. For example, in “Who’s got the wheels to get us to the movie?”, “wheels” refers to a car. Conversely, in “I’m going to get the car tuned up,” “car” refers to the engine. This is different from metonymy, which substitutes a related attribute rather than a part of a thing or person. In “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” “head” is a synecdoche and crown is a metonymy.

Transferred Epithet

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Adjective which should properly modify one word is shifted to another word in the same sentence. “The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,” Romeo and Juliet, 1P.1