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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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Pointing out that two words that normally mean the opposite can mean the same thing or be part of the same meaning, when used in the right context.

Category: Meaning

e.g. "Drink it up" and "Drink it down" illustrate that "up" and "down" can in a sense mean the same thing, or manner.

URL: click here for more examples

Eironeia or Irony

The expression of thought in a form that emphasizes or conveys the opposite meaning to the words used. A tone of voice may be necessary to convey irony if the words are not intended to be taken at face value.

Category: Meaning

e.g. 1. ...you are the people and wisdom will die with you (Job 12:1). 2. For Brutus is an honourable man; So are they all, honorable men. --Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Notes: The surface meaning and the underlying meaning are not the same. Irony may be biting or sarcastic, and often has negative or pejorative overtones."


Words omitted from a sentence or phrase that would be necessary to complete the formal grammar (syntax) but are not needed for the meaning (semantics).

Category: Rhetoric

e.g. 1, 2, 3, ... 10

Notes: Indicated in written material with three dots.


One part of speech is used for another, or one grammatical form is substituted for another, such as present for past or singular for plural.

Category: Meaning

e.g. Think different.


A dark or obscure saying or puzzling statement or an obscure mystery not yet explained. It may be expressed of persons and events as well as of things.

Category: Rhetoric

Secondary Category: riddle

e.g. The riddle of the sphinx: What walks first on four legs, then on two, and later on three?

Notes: Once the riddle has been solved, it is, of course, no longer an enigma."


A syllogism with part of the argument assumed rather than stated.

Category: Rhetoric

e.g. Socrates is mortal because he is human. (The major premise is implicit, not stated.)

Epanadiplosis or Encircling

Repetition of the same word or words at the beginning and end of a sentence or sentence group.

Category: Repetition

e.g. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4

Notes: Consider the encircled sentences as a unit of thought.

Epanados or Inversion

Repetition of different words in a sentence in an inverse order but with a similar meaning.

Category: Repetition

e.g. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. (Isaiah 6:10)

Epanalepsis or Resumption

Repetition of a word, phrase, or idea following any kind of parenthesis in order to return to the original thought..

Category: Repetition

e.g. See 1Cor.10:29; Phil.1:24 for instances of this.

Notes: Marks return to a previous subject, possibly following a paranthetical remark."


Repetition of the same phrase at irregular intervals.

Category: Repetition

e.g. c.f. Psalm 29: 3-9

Notes: Differs from anaphora and repetition by being a phrase not just one word.

Epistrophe or Like Endings

Repetition of the same word or words at the end of successive clauses or sentences.

Category: Repetition

e.g. I yearn more to learn more that I may earn more.

Notes: Often creates a structural pattern for an argument, discussion, or description. If ending sounds rather than whole words or more are repeated, we call the epistrophe a rhyme."

Epitrechon or Remark (Running Along)

A parenthetic addition that is not complete in itself, but requires the context to be understood.

Category: Parenthesis

Secondary Category: explanation

e.g. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years. (Genesis 15:13)

Notes: The phrase "and shall serve them" is the epitrechon."

Epizeuxis or Duplication

Repetition of the same word in immediate succession.

Category: Repetition

e.g. Isaiah 26:3

Notes: The effect is to emphasize or establish the word duplicated.

Erotesis or Rhetorical question(s)

The asking of (perhaps multiple) questions without awaiting an answer.

Category: Rhetoric

Secondary Category: answer

e.g. If you prick us, do we not bleed? --Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice

Notes: The meaning must be gleaned by putting the question into a statement. The question always has an obvious answer.


A word or phrase commonly used in place of terms which are disagreeable or offensive.

Category: Meaning

e.g. My uncle passed away last fall.

Notes: These are often used in politics, where they may sometimes be termed "doublespeak". e.g. I misspoke myself. Or the John Diefenbaker favourite "[That statement was] a terminological inexactetude."

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