Figures of Speech Part – 3


Onomatopoeia is a figure of speech where words resembling their actual sounds are used.

Noises made by humans, animals, objects, and natural phenomena constitute onomatopoeia. Like alliteration, onomatopoeia imparts a lyrical quality to the sentences or verses.


  • The audible purr of the kitten

(The word ‗purr‘ is onomatopoeic sound because it resembles the actual purring sound made by kittens.)

  • The battleground resonated with the clanking of the swords. 

(The word ‗clanking‘ resembles the sound of metal instruments clashing.)

Popular Examples:

Yet the ear it fully knows,

By the twanging

And the clanging‖

Edgar Allan Poe, The Bells

And murmuring of innumerable bees…‖

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Come Down, O Maid

But just the clatter of their bones, / Rolling, rattling carefree circus‖

Ogden Nash, Fossils


The apostrophe is a direct address to an absent person or a non-living thing. 

The character detaches himself or herself from reality and evokes the thing or the person


(a) Hello darkness my old friend. 

(Here the word ‗darkness‘ is addressed as if it were a real person.)

(b) Dear God. Are you listening?

(The person is addressing God directly.)

Popular Examples:

Is this a dagger which I see before

me, The handle toward my hand?

Come, let me clutch thee!

I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.‖

Shakespeare, Macbeth 

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so‖

John Donne, Death Be Not Proud 

O holy virgin! clad in purest white,

Unlock heav‘n‘s golden gates, and issue forth‖

William Blake, To Morning

Oh! Stars and clouds and winds, ye are all about to mock me‖

Mary Shelly, Frankenstein 

“O wind, rend open the heat,

cut apart the heat,

rend it to tatters.”

Hilda Doolittle, Heat


Hyperbole is a figure of speech where a statement is exaggerated for a dramatic effect.

Another name for hyperbole is an overstatement. 


  • She has been warned thousands of times before.

(A dramatic is added to the sentence by exaggerating the number of times she has been warned.)

  • Her awful singing voice made my ears bleed.

(By saying ‗my ears bleed‘, the speaker aims to dramatically highlight the fact that the person concerned had an awful voice.)

Popular Examples:

“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you / Till China and Africa meet, / And the river jumps over the mountain / And the salmon sing in the street.”

W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Franklin Roosevelt 

At that time Bogota was a remote, lugubrious city where an insomniac rain had been falling since the beginning of the 16th century.‖

Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Living to Tell the Tale

Here once the embattled farmers stood / And fired the shot heard round the world.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Understatement is the opposite of hyperbole.

It is a figure of speech where the significance of something is downplayed or minimised.

In other words, something is deliberately projected in a less important manner.

By doing so, the writer accentuates the idea he wishes to deliver to the reader.

Other figures of speech such as irony and sarcasm are highlighted through understatement.


  • The terrorist attacks in the city spoiled the weekend plans of many a citizen.

(The terrorist attacks are projected as a minor impediment that only ruined the weekend plans of the citizens. By doing so, the writer intends to highlight the irony.)

  • Weighing around a quintal, he is not exactly the thinnest person in the world.

(A person who weighs a quintal will be a morbidly obese person let alone the thinnest person in the world. The writer wishes to capture the attention of the reader by understating the person‘s obesity.)

Popular Examples:

I have to have this operation. It isn‘t very serious. I have this tiny little tumour on the brain.‖

J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

I‘ve got a nice place here,‖ he said, his eyes flashing about restlessly. Turning me around by one arm, he moved a broad flat hand along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep, pungent roses, and a snub-nosed motor-boat that bumped the tide offshore‖

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


Climax is a figure of speech where the actions start moving in the ascending order of importance.


  • He came, he saw, he conquered.

(The actions of the person become more intense.)

  • The cat crouched on all fours, locked its target, pounced high and struck its target down in a swift move.

(The actions of the cat are arranged in the ascending order of importance.)

Popular Examples:

“…Lost, vaded, broken, dead within an hour.”

Shakespeare, The Passionate Pilgrim

“Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s Superman!”

The Adventures of Superman

Let a man acknowledge his obligations to himself, his family, his country, and his God.‖ 

George Washington

My brother, my captain, my king.‖

 J. R. R. Tolkien


Anticlimax is a figure of speech where the events or ideas in the sentence are arranged in descending order of importance.

The purpose of anticlimax is to first arouse the interest of the reader and then to create a trivial or unimpressive conclusion.


  • I thought the chest contained gold coins, trinkets or jewels, but to our dismay, it was filled with rocks.

(The writer enumerates valuables as the possible contents of the chest, but ultimately reveals that it was filled with rocks. There is an initial build-up of excitement after which there comes a fall. 

  • The much-hyped event which everyone was waiting for turned out to be a boring affair with the turnout as less as 50 people.

(Here, the writer starts by describing the event as ‗much-hyped‘ and later calls it a ‗boring affair‘ in an anti-climatic manner.)

Popular Examples:

Here thou, great Anna, whom three realms obey,

Dost sometimes counsel take, and sometimes tea.‖

Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock

And as I’m sinkin’ The last thing that I think is, did I pay my rent?”

Jim O’Rourke, Ghost Ship in a Storm

“In moments of crisis I size up the situation in a flash, set my teeth, contract my muscles, take a firm grip on myself and without a tremor, always do the wrong thing.”

George Bernard Shaw

Uses of Figures of Speech

  • Figures of speech lend freshness to literature by departing from the usage of plain words.
  • They spur the reader to use their imaginative powers.
  • They appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities of the reader.
  • They help the writers express themselves in a variety of ways.
  • Without figures of speech, works of literature such as poems, drama, novels and speeches may sound monotonous and uninteresting.