Figures of Speech

Olawunmi Omosanya - Wed, 17th April, 2019 @ 15:30: PM

Figure of Speech:

Whenever we make a speech, we either express ourselves literally or figuratively. For instance, when I say “I’m happy”; it literally means that I am happy and that’s it! Conversely, if I said: “That guy is as thin as a toothpick” literally, we all know that no one can be as thin as a toothpick. It’s just a figurative statement indicating that the guy is very thin. This is what a figure of speech entail.

A figure of speech is said to be a word or phrase that does not take its literal meaning but rather, it has a different meaning.

Such figurative words  do not require a dictionary meaning for their interpretation.

Figures of speech make a language more exciting and creative. We have always had them from the times of our great grandparents and they don’t look like they are going anywhere. Instead, more are been added on a daily basis. In this article, we shall look at some of them.

Types of figure of speech



It uses the two main words “as and like” as a source of comparison between two things that normally do not have anything in common. Examples are:

  • Tunde is as black as a charcoal.
  • Esther is as brave as a lion.
  • Akeem is as gentle as a dove.



Just like simile, a metaphor is used to compare two dissimilar objects or things but the difference between both is that a metaphor does not use the words “as and like”. Examples are:

Tunde is a charcoal. (Tunde is very black).

She is a pig. (She is very dirty).

James is at the peak of her education (James is at the highest point of his education)



These are words or phrase that means the opposite of their literal meaning. It is somewhat related with sarcasm. For instance someone may give a teasing complement like “Oh boy! You look so majestic on that outfit”, but meanwhile what he is really trying to say is “You are looking so awkward!



When two words with contradictory meanings are used together in a sentense, such contradictory words are referred to as oxymoron. For example:

  • That’s old news. (Old news is contradictory).
  • She is a powerless president. (Powerless president is contradictory).
  • The little giant is here. (Little giant is contradictory)



They are words of wisdom and are generally used to express the truth of a matter. Almost every tradition has got their respective proverbs and the elders are more likely to understand the meanings of most of such proverbs. For instance;

  • Make haste while the sun shines. (Work hard while you have the strength OR do not waste your time).
  • The caterpillar that eats the leaf is within the leaf. (Whoever is responsible for your predicament is very close to you).
  • Don’t count your chicks before they hatch. (Don’t celebrate when the success in yet to be confirmed OR don’t be too quick to act like something has happened when it hasn’t).



In personification, inanimate objects or things without life are ascribed with human qualities. Examples are:

  • Time is running fast
  • They felt the pleasing touch of the sun
  • The car engine is dead!



It overemphasizes the importance of something. In Greek, hyperbole means excess. They therefore give a bigger impression about something. For example:

  • Dave was so tasty that he could finish 25 liters of water.
  • I will continue to love you until Nigeria and America merge.



They are better understood within a particular culture because they mean something entire different from whatever is being said. For example:

  • It rained cat and dog. (It rained heavily)
  • The man had kicked the bucket. (The man is dead)
  • Emmanuel killed two birds with one stone. (Emmanuel achieve two task simultaneously)



These are meaningful words that appear to be contradictory. For example:

  • The end has just begun.
  • He died to live forever.
  • Love is pain.



These are words that are closely associated with sounds. The sounds can be that of a human or an imaginary object. For example:

  • The clap of thunder scared the hell out of him. (Clap is a sound made by the hands of humans)
  • The door was squeaking.



These are incomplete or partial words that are used represent the whole of something. For instance:

  • The man learnt the 123’s in primary school. (I23 is only a part of what was learnt; probably he learnt 1-1000)
  • The learnt the ABC’s in class 1.



It's very similar to irony and is the exact opposite of what was said. Sometimes people may sound sarcastic when they intend to mock others or praise others. For instance:

  • Tony is a bad guy. (It means Tony is actually a good guy).
  • Oh! Mr. Handsome is here. (It means the ugliest dude is here)



Slang uses an unusual word or phrase which has a specific meaning. They are mostly originated within a country and often used within that country or a state in such country. They are generally used by the world when they become popularized. For example:

  • That guy is a yahoo boy. (Yahoo boy means cyber criminal)
  • The man is my maga, said the beautiful woman. (It means the man is under the control of the beautiful woman.)
  • The young boy has bar. (The young boy has a lot of money)



This is when an inanimate object is addressed as though it had the characteristics or features of a living being. For example:

  • What kind of stupid phone is this?
  • Damn, this biro made me fail.
  • The nylon flew away.



These are words that contains a successive repetition of a phrase or word. For example:

  • He was at the right place at the right time on the right day.



These are balanced expression written in a reverse order. For example:

  • We die to live. (We actually live before we can die)
  • The fat man lives to eat. (We are supposed to eat to remain alive).
  • We grow old to become a child.



This is the repetition of a beginning consonant sound. For example:

  • The sun shall soon shine. (The letter “s” is a consonant sound that began most of the words in the sentence)
  • A plantain planter planted a plantain in a plantain plantation.

Topics in English

Types of Essay Meaning, Type and Examples of a Clause and Phrase Transitive and Intransitive verbs Relative pronouns explained with examples Figures of Speech Synonyms explained with examples


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