After more than ten years, Ken Barker's list receives a supplement. There
now are definitions of better-known devices, and a fair number of
mostly Greek-named mechanisms worth a mention. Kudos to Błażej
Szpakowicz for collecting them, and to the Web for making it easy to find
the briefest definitions, above all to the untrustworthy but oh so useful
- A form of hyperbole so great as to suggest the impossible.
- "When pigs fly," "When hell freezes over"
- The repetition of the same starting sound in several consecutive words.
- A rhetorical device loosely defined as a change of syntax within a
sentence. Grammatically, it is an error, but in rhetoric it is a figure
that shows excitement, confusion, or laziness.
- The rhetorical repetition of a word or phrase that ends one clause at the start of the next.
- anaphora (linguistics)
- A reference to a preceding utterance.
- "I took an apple and ate it."
- anaphora (rhetorics)
- The repetition of words or phrases for rhetorical effect at the beginning of successive phrases.
- Churchill's "We shall fight them on the beaches" speech.
- Inversion of the natural order of words. "The forest primeval"
The use of a word as if it were a different part of speech, usually of a noun as a verb.
- to oscar, to google, to medal
- The repetition of words in successive clauses in reverse order.
- "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
- The substitution of an epithet for a proper name.
- "The Bard" for Shakespeare, "The Scottish Play" for MacBeth.
- Figure of speech in which an absent person, a personified inanimate being, or an abstraction is addressed as though present.
- "O death, where is thy sting?"
- apothegm or apophthegm
- A terse, instructive saying; a maxim.
- See apophthegm.
- The deliberate use of an outdated form of language.
- "Thee," "thy," etc.
- Repetition of the same sound in nearby words.
- The omission of conjunctions as a stylistic device.
- "I came, I saw, I conquered."
- A form of hyperbole where something is referred to by a term disproportionate to its importance for the purpose of amplifying that importance.
- ads referring to a film as an "epic"
- The intentional misapplication of a word to create an impossible figure of speech.
- "The knife-edge of history."
- An expression that refers to a later expression in the sentence or text.
- The repetition of consonants, particularly at the ends of words.
- The substitution of a harsh, disparaging, or unpleasant expression for a more neutral one.
- "Team A slaughtered team B."
- A rhetorical device of ironically stating the opposite of what is meant.
- The repetition of a word or a phrase with intervening words in between, often at the beginning and end of a sentence.
- The rephrasing of an immediately preceding word or statement for the purpose of intensification, emphasis, or justification.
- "Thousands, no, millions"
- The repetition of words or phrases for rhetorical effect at the end of successive phrases.
- "Government of the people, by the people, for the people."
- The repetition of words with no others in between, usually for emphasis.
- "Words, words, words."
- The substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.
- "Passed away" instead of "died".
- A literary device that is the reversal of the syntactic relation of
two words (as in "her beauty's face"). Also a trope or rhetorical
device, in which a modifier, usually an adjective, is applied to the
"wrong" word in the sentence.
- The use of a word order other than the expected or usual one.
- "You I love," "Do or do not."
- Intentional exaggeration for emphasis.
- "He's a million years old," "to wait an eternity."
- A comparison or representation that does not include the subject thereof.
- "Beast!" as opposed to "You're a beast!"
- Pet name.
- Answering one's own (often rhetorical) question as a rhetorical device.
- The reinforcement of parallelism by the use of words of similar length.
- "Veni, vidi, vici." "No ifs, ands or buts."
- Making reference to an object by mentioning something only remotely associated with it.
- The Japanese use of "hammer" for someone who cannot swim.
- An indirect comparison between objects that does not use "like," "as," etc.
- "He's an animal."
- The creation or use of new words or new senses of existing words.
- The formation of a word by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.
- "Oink," "Buzz."
- A figure of speech that combines two normally contradictory terms.
- "That brilliant George W. Bush."
- An aside, an explanatory or qualifying phrase inserted into a sentence to which it may have no grammatical connection.
- The use of an unexpected ending to a list or phrase, usually for joking or dramatic effect.
- "It was a beautiful morning, the birds were singing, the sun was shining, and then I was run over by a bus."
- The repetition of different words derived from the same root ("strong" and "strength)".
- A neologism created by merging two existing terms.
- "Motel" from "motor hotel."
- A figure of speech in which a future event is referred to in anticipation. (See also procatalepsis)
- "Dead man walking."
- The representation of an absent or imaginary person or object as speaking.
- "___ would be turning over in his grave."
- A figure of speech in which the speaker raises an objection to his own argument and then immediately answers it.
- A modification of an existing term to distinguish it from newer variations.
- "Silent film," "Acoustic Guitar."
- A comparison between two things, typically using "like" or "as."
- A grammatical construction in which two words differ in number but agree in meaning.
- "If anyone calls, tell them I'm out."
- A redundancy, saying the same thing twice.
- "free gift," "tuna fish"
Updated on September 7, 2009