(Figure of Speech): Figures of Speech; Types, Functions

Figure of Speech:

A figure of speech is a word or phrase that is used in such a way as to represent a meaning other than the literal or ordinary meaning. Put differently, it is a word or phrase that departs from straightforward, literal language. The meaning that is denoted by a figure of speech is called a figurative meaning.


  • It makes a literary piece interesting as it gives a special meaning whenever it is used.
  • Figures of speech provides freshness and clarity when used sometimes.
  • It reduces monotony in literature.
  • Figures of speech can be used for emphasis in literary pieces.


(1). (Figure of Speech): SIMILE:

A simile is a figure of speech that compares two dissimilar objects or entities using ‘like’ and ‘as’ or some other words that performs the same function.


  • Emeka looks like a pig.
  • The bride groom is as tall as an iroko tree.
  • Samuel is as brave as a lion; his valiant self would not let him accept defeat.

(2). (Figure of Speech): METAOHOR:

A metaphor directly compares two unrelated objects or entities. Metaphors and similes are similar in that they compare objects. However, there is a difference between them. The difference between them is that while simile uses ‘as’ and ‘like’ to compare objects, metaphor compares two objects directly. Metaphor does not use ‘as’ and ‘like’.


  • Cornelius is a pig at table.
  • Chima is not fair in complexion; he is in fact a charcoal.
  • You are the sugar that sweetens my tea.

(3). (Figure of Speech): HYPERBOLE:

A hyperbole is a figure of speech that is used to create strong feelings through exaggeration. It heightens an idea beyond literal truth for the purpose of emphasis.


  • The whole world attended the celebrity’s wedding.
  • The newly built stadium in Lagos is larger than the whole of New York.
  • My brother finished the whole food in the kitchen.

(4). (Figure of Speech): PERSONIFICATION:

This figure of speech gives human qualities to inanimate objects, places, animals, etc. It makes non-living things behave like human beings.


  • Heaven is angry with the earth because it rained heavily today.
  • The trees blew a gush of air at me me, as if in appreciation.
  • Death captured him at midnight.

(5). (Figure of Speech): METONYMY:

Metonymy uses a thing, idea or object that is related to another thing, idea or object to represent it.


  • The white house has decided that there would be a cease-fire (white house represents president).
  • My sweat brought me this far (sweat means hard work).
  • Three powerful candidates are vying for the Aso-Rock seat (Aso-Rock seat meaning presidential seat).


Synecdoche uses a whole to represent a part or uses a part to represent a whole.


  • Nigeria beat Cameron to emerge champions (Nigeria representing Nigerian football team).
  • Oh father! Grant us our daily bread (bread represents food).
  • The crown summons you( crown represents the king).


This figure of speech places two seemingly opposing ideas side by side so that they look self-contradictory. However on closer examination, some sense is made out of the expression.


  • It is the chick that begets the cock.
  • He who must gain his life must first lose it.
  • Uneasy is the heart that bears the crowd.

(8). IRONY:

An irony is employed when something is said or expected, but then the exact opposite is meant. For instance, when one says something in sarcasm and means totally the opposite of what one says.


  • My son, continue stealing, for stealing is the pathway to prosperity.
  • Brutus is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men (Brutus in fact acted dishonorably by aiding the killing of Caesar).
  • Mr Adamu advised his son to play all he can; that playing is a sure way to success.


It occurs when a word is used to represent the natural sound of something.


  • The rain is ‘drizzling’.
  • The plates fell to the floor with a ‘clatter’.
  • That cat kept ‘meowing’ all through the night.


An oxymoron is a figure of speech that enables two contrasting words or phrases to be placed together for rhetorical purpose.


  • His sickness made him a ‘living dead’.
  • Blessing shed ‘tears of joy’ after her father was finally released from jail.
  • The ‘painful truth’ is that you would not eat if you do not work.


Euphemism presents an unpleasant idea in a more palatable or pleasant way.


  • My father kicked the bucket last night (died).
  • His performance is not favorable.
  • The Nigerian football team are becoming more popular as they have been losing their matches since the beginning of the season.


This achieves contrast by placing two equally balanced ideas side by side.


  • Man proposes, God disposes.
  • It is human to err, and divine to forgive.
  • Those who live by the sword will perish by the sword.


It is used when an object, idea or thing is addressed as if it is physically present.


  • Oh death, where is thy sting!
  • Ye gods! Are you angry with me?
  • Ah, life! Why are you so wicked?

(14). PUN:

Pun is a play on words. The words are similar in sound and in some cases share the same spelling but different meaning.


  • He looked at the sole of his shoe and his soul skipped.
  • The rider applies his brakes and afterwards breaks a glass.
  • The sole preacher won my soul for God.

(15). CLIMAX:

A climax represents ideas in an ascending manner until the most important is reached.


  • We came, we saw, we conquered.
  • The fire started in the garage, entered the sitting room and finally burnt down the block of flats.
  • The above listed are the major types of figures of speech and their examples.

2 thoughts on “(Figure of Speech): Figures of Speech; Types, Functions”

  1. evden eve nakliyat

    Superb post however I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top