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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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From Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Brinsley SheridanŐs Rivals, who was noted for her blunders in the use of words.

Meiosis or Diminution

Intentionally understating or belittling something or implying it is less in significance or size, than it really is.

Category: Rhetoric

e.g. 1. It's only a scratch. 2. He was a citizen of no mean city (Acts 21:39)

Merismos or Distribution

An enumeration or elaboration of the parts of some whole that has previously been mentioned.

Category: Meaning

e.g. morning and evening" means the whole day

Metalepsis or Double Metonymy

Two metonymies contained in one another but with only one explicitly expressed.

Category: Meaning

e.g. I've got a black thumb.

Notes: There are at least two steps to discover the meaning. In the example, the idea of a green thumb is associated with having the ability to make things grow, but black is associated with death, so in two stages we arrive at a would-be gardener whose efforts are usually fatal to the plants."


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

Category: Comparison

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."

Metonymy or Denominatio

The the use of a single characteristic to identify a more complex entity.

Category: Meaning

Secondary Category: rhetoric

e.g. 1. "In an early morning press conference, Number 10 Downing Street today saidÉ" 2. "The pen is mightier than the sword.

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