Figures of Speech: Meaning, examples and types of figure of speech

len Alfred Ajibola - Wed, 17th April, 2019 @ 3:30 PM

Topics in English

Phrase: Types of Phrase Clause explained with its types Essay: How to write the major types of essay Nouns and Adjectives: Examples of nouns formed from adjectives Meaning and Examples of Homonyms Idioms and Examples of Idioms Synonyms: Meaning and examples of synonyms Figures of Speech: Meaning, examples and types of figure of speech Relative pronouns and compound relative pronouns explained with examples Transitive and Intransitive Verbs explained with examples Phrase explained with examples Essay: Formal, Semi-Formal and Informal Essays explained

Academic Questions in English

Please click here to see all Questions and Answers

For this question and the three questions below, choose the option that best completes the sentence.

The doctor _____ the illness as malaria, not dysentery.

  • A. Discovered

  • B. Diagnosed

  • C. Tested

  • D. Examined

  • E. Announced

  • F. Prescribed

The principal reacted to the disrespectful action of the student with strong _____.

  • A. Indignation

  • B. Condemnation

  • C. Accusation

  • D. Demonstration

  • E. Mobilization

  • F. Impunity

Since the writer did not indicate his name, the editor did not publish such a/an _____ article.

  • A. Poor

  • B. Libellous

  • C. Discourteous

  • D. Impolite

  • E. Anonymous

  • F. Scandalous

The play was so interesting that the _____ clapped for a long time at the end.

  • A. Congregation

  • B. Fans

  • C. Spectators

  • D. Audience

  • E. Watchers

  • F. People

Answer true of false with regards to the sentence below:

'Humility' is a noun and 'Humble' is an adjective

  • A. True

  • B. False

A part of a sentence or clause that contains a verb and something concerning the subject within that sentence is termed a/an _____.

  • A. Predicate

  • B. Object

  • C. Adverbial clause

  • D. Adverbial phrase

  • E. Half clause

  • F. Body of adverbial clause

The acronym Wi-Fi stands for _____.

  • A. Wireless Files

  • B. Wireless Flips

  • C. Wireless Fidelity

  • D. Wireless Freedom

  • E. Wireless and Free

  • F. Wireless Fun

The words massacre and bloodbath are _____.

  • A. Antonyms

  • B. Synonyms

  • C. Homonyms

  • D. Homophones

  • E. Heteronyms

  • F. Heterophone

Figure of Speech:

Whenever we make a speech, we either express ourselves literally or figuratively. As an instance, when I say:

  • I’m happy!

  • It literally means that 'I am happy' and that’s it!

Conversely, if I said:
  • That boy is as thin as a toothpick!

  • Ideally, we all know that no one can be as thin as a toothpick. It’s just a figurative statement indicating how lean the boy is, (that is; he is very lean).


The above instances is what a figure of speech entail.

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

Recall that a phrase is a grammatical term referring to a group of words that do no have a subject and a verb.

Please read more on phrases and clauses here.


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

Figures of speech make a language more exciting and creative. They have always existed from the time of our great grandparents and it doesn't look like they are going anywhere. Instead, more are been added with time.

Types of figure of speech


1. Simile

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. Below are some examples:

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

It is noteworthy to state that symnonyms and simile aren't the same thing. Recall that synonyms are words or phrase that has an exact or closely related meaning with another word or phrase.

Please read more on symnonyms here.


2. Metaphor

In relation to simile, a metaphor is used to compare two dissimilar objects or things. However, the difference between both figures of speech is that a metaphor does not make use of the words 'as' and 'like'; rather, it compares something directly to another dissimilar thing: Below are some examples:

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

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

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

    You can read on homonyms here.


3. Irony

These are words or phrase that means the opposite of their literal meaning.

Irony is somewhat related with sarcasm. An instance of irony is expressed when someone gives a teasing complement like:

  • 'Oh boy! You look so majestic on that outfit'. However, what the speaker is really trying to say is: 'The boy looks so awkward!'


4. Oxymoron

When two words with contradictory meanings are used together in a sentense, such contradictory words are termed oxymorons. For example:

  • That’s old news. (Old news is contradictory because a news is expected to be a recent event).
  • She is a powerless president. (Being a president and at the same time powerless is contradictory).
  • The little giant is here. (One can't be little and be a giant at the same time. Both words are contradictory).


5. Proverbs

They are words of wisdom and are generally used to express the truth of a matter.

Almost every tradition have got their respective proverbs and the elders are more likely to understand their meanings. Below are some proverbial instances:

  • 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. (Do not celebrate when your success is yet to be confirmed) or (don’t be too quick to act like something has happened when it hasn’t).


6. Personification

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

  • Time is running fast. (Time has got no legs to run).

  • They felt the pleasing touch of the sun. (The sun can't directly touch a person since it's high up in space).

  • The car's engine is dead! (A car's engine is non-living so it can't die actually).

    You can read on the characteristics of living organisms here.


7. Hyperbole

It overemphasizes the importance of something.

In Greek, hyperbole means 'excess'. They therefore give a bigger impression about something. Below are some instances:

  • Dave was so thirsty that he could finish 25 liters of water in 2 minutes. (Emphasis is laid on how thirsty Dave was even though we understand that no human can finish a 25 litres of water in 2 minutes).
  • I will continue to love you until Nigeria and America merge. (Nigeria and America can never merge. The statement simply emphasizes the writer's love).


8. Idiom

They are better understood within a particular culture because they mean something entirely 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).

    Please read more on idioms here.


9. Paradox

These are meaningful words that appear to be contradictory. Below are some examples:

  • The end has just begun. (End and begun or begin are contradictory).

  • He died to live forever. (Die and live are contradictory).

  • Love is pain. (Love and pain are contradictory in this instance).

    You can read on the beauty of suffering here.


10. Onomatopoeia

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. (An animal that squeak is the mice)


11. Synecdoche

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

  • The boy learnt the 123’s in primary school. ('I23' is only a part of what was learnt; perhaps, he had learnt '1-1000')
  • He learnt the ABC’s of biology in JSS1. (This means that he learnt the basics of biology in JSS1).


12. Sarcasm

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 or praise others. Below are some sarcastic statements:

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


13. Slang

Slang uses an unusual word or phrase which has a specific meaning.

They are originated within a country and are often used within that country or a state in such country.

Slangs are generally used by most people within a country especially when they become popularized. For example:

  • That dude is a yahoo boy. (In Nigeria, the slang 'yahoo boy' means cyber criminal).

  • The man is my maga, said the beautiful woman. (In Nigeria, the above slang 'maga' as used in the statement implies that he is under the control of the beautiful woman).

  • The young boy has bar. ('Bar' is a slang that means money in Nigeria. From the example, it means the young boy has a lot of money).

    Please read on nouns formed from adjectives here.


14. Apostrophe

This is when an inanimate object is addressed as though it had the characteristics or features of a living being. From the examples below, non-living or inanimate objects are described as though they were living things:

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


15. Anaphora

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.


16. Chiasmus

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. (Everyone is meant to be a child before they can grow old).


17. Alliteration

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.

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Amazing facts in English

Scrunched and strengthed are the longest one-syllable words in the English language

The longest word in English language with only one vowel is 'strengths'

The word pangram refers to a sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet. Below is an example of a pangram:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

The word Paraskevidekatriaphobia means the fear of Friday the 13th, while Triskaidekaphobia means an extreme fear of the number 13

Angry and Hungry are the only two English words that currently ends in '-gry'

The only English word with five consecutive vowels is 'queueing'

The dot on the top of letter ‘i’ is called a tittle

The sentence below uses every letter in the English alphabet:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

Cat furnishings - Len Academy

The furry tufts of hair inside a cat's ear are called ear furnishings

There are only four words in the English language that end in 'dous'. These are:

  • Tremendous 

  • Horrendous

  • Stupendous

  • Hazardous

Notable points in English

Homonyms are words with the same spellings, same sounds but different meanings.

Below are some sentences containing homonyms with their respective meanings:

  • Keen

We have a keen match against Ronaldo’s team and Messi seems to be keen.

Keen: An involvement of people competing very hard for something.

Keen: Very interested in something.

  • Tear

Regardless the tear you shed, Mr. Frank will still tear your examination scripts.

Tear: The drop of liquid that comes out from a person's eye when they cry.

Tear: To damage something by pulling or cutting it apart.

  • Jot

There isn't any jot of truth in what he said, so I didn't jot anything down.

Jot: A very small amount of something

Jot: To write something quickly

Please read more on homonyms here

Certain words in English language appear to be similar but are quite different in meaning.

The table below shows some examples:











Synonyms should not be confused with the above instance. They are different words with similar meanings.

Please read more on synonyms here.

Some words always exist in the plural form. Examples of such words are:

  • Scissors
  • Shears
  • Alms
  • News
  • Trousers

Possessive adjective tells you the owner of a thing. For instance;

This is his car.

'His' in the above statement is describing him as the owner of the car; and this makes 'his' a possessive adjective.

That is your bag.

'Your' is a possessive adjective in the above statement.

Note: An adjective is a word that describes a noun.

Possessive pronouns show possession.

A possessive pronoun will always correspond with each of the personal pronouns. For Instance:

I own the book. ('I' is a personal pronoun)

The book is mine. ('Mine' is the possessive pronoun)

She owns a car. ('She' is a personal pronoun)

The car is hers. ('Hers' is the possessive pronoun)