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Figurative language gives new meaning to ordinary words. Writers do not have a language of their own.

take everyday words and put them together in new ways to create vivid word pictures. Figurative language, then, is
not meant to be taken literally.

Figurative language is used in all kinds of writing, as well as in spoken language. It includes several specific
ways of putting words together. These are known as figures of speech.

Many figures of speech and rhetorical devices lend themselves to classification. The figures of speech that
logically go well together are based on:

1. Resemblance
a. Simile c. Personification e. Allusion
b. Metaphor d. Apostrophe f. Antonomasia
2. Emphasis
a. Hyperbole c. Litotes e. Rhetorical Question
b. Meiosis d. Repetition
3. Parallelism and/or Contrast
a. Antithesis c. Irony e. Chiasmus
b. Paradox d. Oxymoron
4. Sound Effects
a. Alliteration c. Onomatopoeia e. Euphemism
b. Assonance d. Pun
5. Substitution
a. Metonymy b. Synecdoche
6. Arrangement of Words
a. Climax b. Anti-climax
1. A simile is a stated comparison between two things that are actually unlike but have something in common. A
simile is easy to recognize because it is introduced by the words like, as, resemble, or similar to.
a. quiet as a mouse (to describe a person)
b. Like a glum cricket
the refrigerator is singing
- from “Flight” by James Tate
c. Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
d. I ride
the “A” train
and feel
like a ball-bearing in a roller skate.
- from “Riding the ‘A’” by May Sevenson

2. A metaphor makes a direct comparison of two unlike things that have something in common. A metaphor
does not include the words like, as, resemble or similar to.
a. “Evert at night-time, Mama is a sunrise.” – Evelyn Tooley Hunt
b. Stars are great drops of golden dew.
- from “Harlem Night Song” by Langston Hughes
c. Birds are flowers flying
and flowers perched birds,
- from “Mirrorment” by A. R. Ammons
d. The stars are slits
In a black cat’s eyes
Before she spits.
- from “October” by John Updike

An extended metaphor makes a comparison that is carried throughout a literary selection. The continued use of the
same metaphor creates a strong image for the reader.
“O Captain, My Captain” by Walt Whitman compares Abraham Lincoln to a captain of a ship.

3. Personification is a figure of speech that gives human qualities to an object, an animal or an idea. It enables
the reader to see ordinary things in a new and interesting way.
a. The Sun puts a rainbow scarf about Rain’s shoulders when they go out together.
b. Stormy, husky, brawling
City of the Big Shoulders:
- from “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg
c. Q is for Quietness
of Sunday avenues
When silence walks the city
In her pretty velvet shoes;
- from “ Q is for the Quietness” by Phyllis McGinley
d. I honor the Ocean as my father,
For he gives me food and a means to travel.
Ocean knows everything, for he is everywhere.
Ocean is wise, for he is old.
Listen to Ocean, for he speaks wisdom.
- from “This Is My Land” by Clarence Pickernall

4. An apostrophe addresses personified objects as real persons, the absent as if they were present, and the dead
as if they were alive or present.
a. Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so…
- from “Death, Be Not Proud” by John Donne
b. “Farewell, my beloved Philippines, the sorrow of my sorrows.”
c. “Time, you old gypsy man, will you not stay?”
d. “I give you thanks, Oh Nature, because you have not given me any high gift…”

5. Allusion is a reference in a work of literature to another work of literature, or to a well-known person, place
or event outside of literature.
a. mythological allusion: Magnus is the Adonis of his class.
b. literary allusion: Political Pied Pipers try everything.
c. historical allusion: Some call Marcos a modern day Hitler.
d. Biblical allusion:
I took my power in my hand
And went against the world;
‘Twas not as much as David had,
But I was twice as bold.

I aimed my pebble, but myself

Was all the one that fell.
Was it Goliath was too large,
Or only I too small?
- “The Duel” by Emily Dickinson

6. Antonomasia is a special type of allusion which makes use of a title or an epithet (a descriptive word or
phrase) instead of a proper name.
Antonomasia also uses a proper name to convey an idea. Often these names are taken from history, myths,
legends and the Bible.

Persons and Places Idea or Emotion Conveyed

Abraham father of his people
Achilles’ heel flaw or weakness
Apollo manliness
Cain murderer of his brother
Circe witchcraft
Corregidor last stand against an invader
David and Jonathan friendship
Gibraltar unconquerable; the Rock
Juliet young, tragic love
Methuselah old age, long life
Napoleon strategy in war
Penelope faithful wife
Salome temptation (through dance)
Solomon wisdom
Thomas doubt
Waterloo cause of defeat
1. Hyperbole is a figure of speech that exaggerates an idea so vividly that the reader has an instant picture.
a. Is this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
- Christopher Marlowe
b. when Susanna Jones wears red
A queen from some time-dead Egyptian night
Walks once again.
- from “When Sue Wears Red” by Langston Hughes
c. The French woman worked her fingers to the bone in order to replace the lost necklace, only to discover
later that the necklace was only an imitation.
d. Some people say that Paul Bunyan wasn’t much taller than an ordinary house. Others say he must have
been a lot taller to do all the things he did, like sticking trees into his pockets and blowing birds out of the
air when he sneezed.
- from “Sky-bright Axe” by Adrien Stoutenburg

2. Meiosis is a positive understatement intended to suggest a strong affirmative.

a. I am a bit worried because I am failing in almost all of my subjects
b. She is a bit hurt because you did not invite her to your party.
c. The student was a bit upset to find his school bag gone, his books and projects lost.
d. We were a little disappointed to learn that the guest of honor could not come

3. Litotes is a mild negative understatement, intended to suggest a strong affirmative.

a. After seeing my report card, my father said in no uncertain terms I should start studying.
b. A grade school boy won first place in an oratorical contest and his grandfather said, “Not a bad
c. A teacher tells a lazy student, “Your performance in the first grading is not bad at all, but a little more
attention to your studies won’t hurt you.”
d. Topping the board exam is no mean feat!

4. Repetition is repeating words, phrases, or whole constructions in order to intensify feeling or meaning.
a. “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never yield to force.” – Churchill
b. dirt and
clean them clean them clean them
dirt and
leave them let them rot
dirt and stench and
clean them clean them
bending at the waist and stabbing-
papers papers blowing sticking
never leave them
clean them clean them
people put them
now remove them
clean streets sidewalk
remove them
dirt and dirt and dirt forever.
“The Streetcleaner’s Lament” by Patricia Hubbell

5. A rhetorical question is a question to which the speaker expects no spoken answer but hopes for the mental
one that he forcefully suggests.
a. “What will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange
for his life?”
b. “On this account I say to you: Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will
drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body
than clothing?
Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses, still
your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?”
- Matthew 6: 25, 26
c. “Who of you being anxious can add one cubit to his life span? Also, on te matter of clothing, why are you
anxious? Take a lesson from the lilies of the field, how they are growing: they do not toil, nor do they spin;
but, I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory as arrayed as one of these.”
- Matthew 6: 27 – 30
1. Irony is the general name given to literary techniques that involve differences between appearance and reality,
expectation and result, meaning and intention.
Types of Irony:
a. Verbal irony – words are used to suggest the opposite of what is meant. In everyday speech, verbal irony
is easily recognized because the listener has the speaker’s tone of voice and facial expression to aid him.
Ex. Two friends have planned a day picnicking and hiking. As they step out the door, it begins to rain. One
says, “Oh, great! I was hoping it would rain.”
b. Irony of situation – in this type of irony, an even occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the
characters, the reader, or the audience.
Ex. Note the double irony in O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” A penniless young couple want to buy
each other special Christmas presents. The wife has her beautiful long hair cut off, sells it, and bus a chain
worthy of her husband’s prized gold pocket watch. The husband sells his watch to buy exquisite tortoise
shell combs for his wife’s beautiful long hair.
c. Dramatic irony – here, there is a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the reader or
audience knows to be true.
Ex. “Just as the conspirators gather around Caesar to assassinate him, he asks, “Are we all ready?”

2. Oxymoron is the combination of two mutually contradictory words in a case where the contradiction is
apparent only, the two ideas being realized.
a. James Bond is a well-known secret agent.
b. Conspicuously inconspicuous, the plainclothesmen accompanied the President.
c. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

3. Paradox is a seemingly contradictory but true statement.

a. We are our own parents.
b. The Child is Father to the Man.
c. More haste, less speed.
d. Attack is the best form of defense.

4. Antithesis is the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in paragraph structures.

a. “This was the best of times, this was the worst of times.”
- from “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens
b. “Ah, how beautiful it is to fall in order to give you flight, to die in order to give you life…”
- from “My Last Farewell” by Jose Rizal
c. “He that finds his soul will lose it, and he that loses his soul for my sake will find it.”
- Matthew 10: 39
d. “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

5. Chiasmus is parallelism in sentence element of similar or contrasting ideas, so arranged that the parallel
elements of the second part of the structure are in inverted order.
a. “He was slow in resolution, in performance quick.”
b. “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
c. Be swift about hearing, about speaking slow.”

1. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds. It is an important tool for poets. It gives a musical quality
and a rhythm to a poem. Alliteration also puts emphasis on certain words and helps to create mood.
a. There once was a witch or Willowby Wood, and a weird wild wicth was she.
- from “The Witch of Willowby Wood” by Rowena Bennett
b. Hear the loud alarm bells
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror now
Their turbulency tells.
- from “The Bells’ by Edgar Allan Poe
c. Three wise old women were they, were they
Who went to walk on a winter day:
- from “Three Wise Old Women “ by Elizabeth Corbett
d. in the deep sleep forest
there were ferns
there were feathers
there was fur
and a soft ripe peach
- from “Alarm Clock” by Eve Merriam
2. Assonance refers to the recurrence, in words that are close together, of the same vowel sound.
a. What a world of merriment their melody fortells!
b. No bubble no trouble.
c. Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
d. The beetle booms adown the glooms
And bumps along the dusk.

3. Onomatopoeia is the use of words to imitate sounds.

a. Bullets whizzed or ripped the air and spanged into the tree trunks; our gum locks clicked.
b. The peanut bag went rackety, rackety, rackety, rackety.
c. With a whoosh of rockets and the thud of mortars the attack began.
d. And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey cock.
And the clackin’ of the guineys, the cluckin’ of the hens, …
And the mumble of the hummin’ birds and the buzzin’ of the bees.

4. Pun is a play of words of nearly the same sound but of different meanings.
a. An advice to loquacious persons: Look before you lip.
b. “The Tooth, The Whole Tooth And Nothing but the Tooth”
- from an essay by Robert Benchley
c. Question: Define wise.
Answer: It’s what little kids are always asking, as in “Wise the sky blue?”
d. Here lies Pecos Bill.
He always lied and always will,
He once lied loud,
He now lies still.

5. Euphemism is the se of a pleasant or pale expression instead of an unpleasant, harsh or depressing one.
a. senior citizens for old people
b. on the family way for pregnant
c. passed away for dead

1. Metonymy is the substitution of one noun for another which it suggests. It is based on association (e.g. the
author for his works, the source for the product, the cause for the effect).
a. We watched Spielberg today. (director for his work)
b. It’s the rope for the criminal. (cause – hanging with a rope; effect – death)
c. I don’t care what kind of colgate you use. Just give me some so I can brush my teeth.
d. Malacañang declared the suspension of classes.

2. Synecdoche is a type of metonymy in which a significant part is used to represent the whole.
a. It’s useless to preach to empty stomachs.
b. Give us this day our daily bread.
c. A sail rose out of the sea.
d. Life is hard when you have eight hungry mouths to feed.
e. Three heads are better than one.

1. Climax is the arrangement of a series of words, phrases, classes or sentences in an ascending order of
a. I came. I saw. I conquered.
b. Some books are to be tasted others to be swallowed; and a few to be chewed and digested.
c. We dared. We fought. We triumphed.
d. To weep for fear is childish; to weep for grief is human; to weep for compassion is divine.

2. Anti-climax is abruptly ending a climax build-up with an insignificant item.

a. I die. I faint. I fail.
b. “he spoke the greatest orators the world has ever known…
Pericles, Demosthenes and now me.”

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