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Figures of Speech

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Figure of Speech Dictionary

A figure of speech or a trope (the latter word has a more specific use) is a non-ordinary use of language employed to create an emphasis, amplify a meaning, draw a comparison or contrast, or to make a rhetorical point. The figure may be achieved by employing repetition of words or sounds in a specific pattern, making an interjection, stating or implying a comparison, using synonyms, or using a specific pattern of argument. This searchable dictionary collects some of the common forms (about half of all figures). Use the Contact Page to advise of corrections, additional examples or forms we have missed.

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Results for Comparison:


A story, narrative, or fable in which a moral principle or truth is presented by means of fictional characters and events which stand symbolically for real persons or events.

e.g. Psalm 80:8 ff portrays God planting and tending Israel as a vineyard. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is an extended allegory of the Christian life. Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene is a well-known allegorical poem. Animal Farm is another example in prose.

Notes: In Biblical languages, allegory may be quite broad compared with modern ones.


An indirect reference to a person, place or event made by mentioning or quoting a characteristic or aspect of the thing alluded to. Often A reference in one literary work to a character or theme found in another literary work.

e.g. He had my head on a platter. (allusion to John the Baptist)

Anthropomorphism or Condescension

1. A person of higher rank reaches down to one of lower rank to communicate or establish a relationship. 2. The ascribing of human attributes to God.

e.g. God's eye was upon me, his hand was with me, his arm guided me.

Notes: May be used in a positive sense of God condescending to deal with humans, or in a negative sense where one human being condescends to speak to another but does so in a demeaning or belittling manner. See also anthropomorphism.

Hypocatastasis or Implication

A comparison that is suggested or hinted at by context without being explicitly stated.

e.g. But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 6:11)

Notes: This is similar to a metaphor but without any use of the verb to be. In the example, it is doctrine that is at issue. The comparison is made by a substitution, which calls more attention to the implied comparison."


A comparison by making a statement that one thing is another.

e.g. Benjamin is a ravenous wolf... (Gen. 49:27).

Notes: The comparison is implied by the statement of equality, not explicitly stated as in a simile."


A story told to illustrate a religious, moral or philosophical idea.

Secondary Category: illustration

e.g. The Biblical parable of the Prodigal son or of the Good Samaritan

Notes: Can be an extended simile. There may be multiple points of comparison. Parable is a broader term in Semitic thinking than in Greek.

Paronomasia or Pun

A play on words that rearranges the meanings of words with similar sounds, usually for humorous effect.

e.g. 1. O pun the door! 2. A door is not a door if it is ajar. 3. Very punny. 4. You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church. (Matt 16:18) 4. That was a foul tasting turkey.

Notes: These are language and culture specific and may depend on the way the speaker pronounces the pun. Note the last example, which is one of the best instances of a serious pun, playing between the two Greek words petros and petra."

Prosopopoeia or Personification

Things or ideas are loaned the qualities or attributes of persons.

Secondary Category: illustration

e.g. 1. The sea looked and fled...(Ps. 114:3, 4). 2. My old tin lizzy whined and limped up the hill, complaining against my foot on the accelerator.


An overt or formal declaration that one thing is "like" or "as" another, usually using one of those two words.

e.g. Even so, husbands should love their own wives as their own bodies... (Eph. 5:28).


Repeated similes in close proximity.

Secondary Category: simile

e.g. We rejoice in victory; they despair in defeat.

Like what you see? Want to exchange links? Want to contribute original or attributed material or add one of the many figures of speech we've not got around to yet? Contact Us. If we use your material, we'll acknowledge the source. Offended by something here? Tell us why. We'll ask for a second opinion from a neutral party and if that person agrees, the item will be removed. But hey, don't take yourself too seriously. The world needs some levity.


About's page
American Rhetoric in Sound
Brainy Encyclopedia's List (Also found elsewhere)
Earnest Speakers
Figures of Speech Exercises
Figures of Speech Quiz
Figures of Speech Tables
The Forest of Rhetoric
RinkWorks Fun With Words
Stephen Hecht's page
Important Grammatical & Linguistical Terms
Infoplease Glossary of Poetry Terms
List of Poetry Terms
Deborah Rudd's page
Brian Tung's page
UNCP Glossary of Literary Terms
Kip Wheeler's page
Grant William's page
Who is the brain (sic) behind opundo?

Biblical Figures of Speech
Basics of Biblical Interpretation
Biblical Idioms
Bullinger's Biblical Figures
Figures of Speech Introduction
Keys to the Word's Interpretation
A. E. Knoch's page
NT Figures of Speech
Truth or Tradition's List

Related Pages
Rhyme Zone
Writing Resource Links


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Updated 2005 12 28