24 Figures of Speech and Their Meanings (With Example)

Do you struggle to recognise the figures of speech in a sentence and what they mean?

In this lesson,

You will see and learn the twenty-four figures of speech and their meanings in Literature with examples on how to identify them.

ALSO SEE: Literary Devices In Literature and How To Identify Them

Take note.

A link for you to practice past questions on figures of speech is included at the bottom of this lesson.

Figures of speech and their meanings

1. Simile

Simile is when you compare two things using words like: as, like, so, and than.


  • Samson is as brave as a lion.
  • His heart is like a stone.

2. Metaphor

Metaphor is when you compare two things directly without using “like, as, so, than.”

It is almost like Simile but instead of saying A is like B, you say A is B.


  • Samson is a lion.
  • His heart is a stone.

3. Personification

Personification is when you give human characteristics to non-living things.


  • Lagos does not sleep at night.
  • Life is not treating Brother Tosin well.

4. Irony

An irony is when you make a statement but mean the opposite.


  • Mr Bello was so rich that he could not buy a car.
  • Happiness is a very brilliant student, having failed in his promotion examination.

5. Apostrophe

This is when you talk directly to an absent person or thing as if they would listen and respond.

Apostrophe usually ends with an exclamation mark (!).


  • Life, why are you treating us like this!
  • Oh death, where is thy sting!

6. Innuendo

This is when you indirectly say something bad or hurtful about another person.

An innuendo is more like an indirect insult.


  • Emmanuel can be trusted with all things except money. (MEANING THAT) he cannot be trusted with money.
  • Ojo has now become wise. (MEANING THAT) Ojo used to be foolish.

7. Sarcasm

Also called verbal irony, Sarcasm is a statement that means the opposite of what it says.

Sarcastic words are often said with a friendly tone but their meaning is always harsh and meant to mock someone or something.


  • Go ahead, that is good, smash every plate in the house to show your anger.
  • You can eat the food, after all I have no mouth.

8. Oxymoron

An oxymoron is when two words with opposing meanings are used together intentionally.


  • He is a wise fool.
  • This earpiece is original fake.

9. Hyperbole

A hyperbole is when you exaggerate or describe something way more than the fact.

It is used to show emphasis.


  • The man had the strength of a thousand elephants.
  • He sneezed and all men ran for their dear lives.

10. Litotes

This is when you express a positive idea by negating the opposite of that idea.

It is an understatement.


  • She is not looking bad. (MEANING THAT): she is looking good.
  • Deborah is not unkind. (MEANING THAT): she is kind.

11. Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia are words that resembles the sound of the thing it describes.


  • The gun boomed.
  • The wind whooshed through the trees.

12. Metonymy

Metonymy is the representation of one thing by something that is closely associated with it.


  • O Lord, give us our daily bread. (MEANING: food)
  • The bullets (MEANING: soldiers) took over the government of Nigeria in 1966.

13. Antonomasia

This is when some qualities of a person or thing is used to represent that person or thing.


  • The Ogene Sound exponent (meaning “Oliver de Coque”) has just returned from London.
  • Afro Juju King (meaning “Sir Shina Peters”) is coming here tomorrow.

14. Synecdoche

This is when you use a part of something to refer to its whole or use a whole to refer to some of its part.


  • Two heads are better than one. (‘heads’ refer to people).
  • Government has ordered a nationwide lockdown. (‘Government’ refers to The President).

15. Pun

A pun is a joke that plays on words that sound alike or have multiple meanings.


  • You are better late than be late.
  • The religious Shoemaker mends soles and wins souls for Christ.

16. Antithesis

An antithesis is when you place two contrasting ideas side-by-side.


  • The ignorant condemn learning, but the learned condemn ignorance.
  • Money is the root of all evil, poverty is the fruit of all goodness.

17. Paradox

A paradox is a statement that seems stupid at first, but then makes a lot of sense when you look at it closely.


  • The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • The child is father of the man.

18. Epigram

This is a brief and clever statement that looks more like a proverb because it contains wisdom in it.


  • More haste, less speed.
  • In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty.

19. Euphemism

Euphemisms are nice and pleasant statements used instead of the sad and unpleasant ones.


  • The old woman passed away. (MEANING THAT) she died.
  • The boy took the first position from the back. (MEANING THAT) he took the last position.

20. Alliteration

This is the constant repetition of the same consonant sound in a sentence.


  • Father Francis fried five fresh fish.
  • A plantain planter planted plantain on his plantain plantation.

21. Repetition

This is when a word occurs more than once in a write-up.


  • Out, out brief candle.
  • Nightfall: nightfall, you’re my mortal enemy.

22. Rhetoric question

This is a type of question that does not require an answer.


  • Why am I in this mess?
  • When gold rusts, what will iron do?

23. Climax

This is when you arrange ideas or expressions in such a way that the most important one is put last.


  • The flood swept away the man’s slippers, his shoes, bicycle, motorcycle, car, and his wife.
  • I came, I saw, I conquered.

24. Anticlimax

This is the opposite of climax.

Anticlimax is when you arrange ideas or expressions in such a way that the most important one comes first while the least important is put last.


  • The robber was shot, beaten, and later carried away.
  • The flood swept away the man’s wife, his car, motorcycle, bicycle, and slippers.

Test yourself

Click on the link below to practice past questions on Literature in English figures of speech now.



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