Common Figures of Speech & Poetic Devices

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First part of the Rhetorical Terms and Poetic Figures of Speech for Wild Bill's AP English class.

Alliteration

The repetition of the same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables, as in "on scrolls of silver snowy sentences"

Assonance

Resemblance of sound, especially of the vowel sounds in words, as in: "that dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea"

Hyperbole

A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton.

Personification

A figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form, as in Hunger sat shivering on the road or Flowers danced about the lawn.

Simile

A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as, as in "How like the winter hath my absence been" or "So are you to my thoughts as food to life"

Metaphor

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in "a sea of troubles" or "All the world's a stage"

Synecdoche

A figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole (as hand for sailor), the whole for a part (as the law for police officer), the specific for the general (as cutthroat for assassin), the general for the specific (as thief for pickpocket), or the material for the thing made from it (as steel for sword).

Metonymy

A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated, as in the use of Washington for the United States government or of the sword for military power.

Litotes

A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite, as in This is no small problem.

Pathetic Fallacy

A type of personification in which inanimate nature is given human qualities as in, "Every flower enjoys the air it breathes." "The happy sunshine streamed through the clouds into the peaceful valley."

Oxymoron

A rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist.

Onomatopoeia

The formation or use of words such as buzz or murmur that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.

Apostrophe

A type of personification; The direct address of an absent or imaginary person or of a personified abstraction, especially as a digression in the course of a speech or composition.

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