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Figures of Speech by Type

Figures of speech can be grouped into different types. Scholars differ on how to group as well as how to define some figures of speech. The following types and definitions may be useful but they are not authoritative. Some figures of speech fall into more than one type. Figures of speech can be searched by type below, or they can also be searched alphabetically by name here.


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


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


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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 in discussion to illustrate or prove a point. In literature, gifted writers invoke these figures to achieve aesthetic effects, which often operate on multiple levels.


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These figures of speech may omit letters, syllables, words or ideas. They may even just include a pause to create dramatic anticipation.


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


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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.


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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. A pun is only the most widely known type of word play. There are several ways to play with words.