Devendra asks, “what are figures of speech. I want the definition and an example of all figures of speech.”
According to The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, a figure of speech is the
intentional departure from straight-forward, literal use of language for the purpose of clarity, emphasis, or freshness of expression.
To define and provide examples for all of the hundreds of figures would take a Herculean effort, and I’m no Hercules. Instead, I’ll offer a few here to get you started and direct you to the Sylva Rhetoricæ website for a more comprehensive list.
- metaphor: a comparison between two seemingly unrelated things. Metaphor can be stated or implied. Example: “Your eyes and the valley are memories. / Your eyes fire and the valley a bowl.” —Carl Sandburg, “Valley Song”
- simile: a direct comparison between two seemingly unrelated things using “like” or “as.” Example: “Sorrow like a ceaseless rain / beats upon my heart.” —Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Sorrow”
- personification: granting human characteristics to something that is not human. Example: “Vine leaves tap my window, / Dew-drops sing to the garden stones” —Conrad Aiken, “Morning Song of Senlin”
- apostrophe: addressing an inanimate object as if it were living. Example: “Oh overshoes, / don’t you / remember me, / pushing you up and down / in the winter snow?” —Anne Sexton, “The Fury of Overshoes”
- hyperbole: deliberate exaggeration for effect, usually for emphasis. Example: “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” —T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
- paradox: a statement that appears self-contradictory, but is true. Or, two seemingly contradictory statements that are both nonetheless true. Example: “I have the moon, the timberline, and you. / All three are gone—and I keep all three.” —Carl Sandburg, “Valley Song”
- irony: a contrast between what is stated and what is meant, or an incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs. Irony can be rhetorical (i.e. verbal), situational, or dramatic. Example (rhetorical – ironic understatement): Michael Jordan was okay at basketball.