Mar 25

Figures Of Speech

Figures Of Speech

Figures of Speech

Figures of Speech


Sometimes what we read is not meant to be taken literally, it may need to be interpreted. If something is ‘literal’ then it means what it says, clearly and simply, exactly as written. Figurative language, needs to be interpreted. It is useful to aid description, provoke imagination and create imagery, especially in poetry or descriptive prose.

A simile is a comparison. When we say that something is ‘like’ or ‘as’ something else we are using a simile, saying one thing is similar to another, often in an exaggerated way or sometimes humorously. We might say that someone ‘ran like the wind’ or is ‘as soft as butter’ or ‘as bold as brass´’. These expressions do not make sense literally but we know what they mean and we often use them in everyday speech.

In poetry they make the writing more interesting:

‘And ice, mast high, came floating by,
as green as emerald’
´The rime of the ancient mariner’ by S.T. Coleridge
A metaphor is also a kind of comparison but has a stronger effect than a simile. In a simile we say one thing is like another, in metaphor we say it is the other, even though it is not really, or literally.
So if we say that ‘the boxer’s iron fist` knocked out his opponent, we do not expect anyone to suppose that he has a prosthesis made of iron. We want to create an effect, to make the boxer sound exceptional, and as far as his opponent is concerned maybe the fist might as well be made of iron.

In poetry:
‘The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas’
‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes.

This is a special kind of metaphor in which human qualities, or attributes are bestowed on an inanimate object or idea; a ‘thing’ is made to behave like a person.

‘Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance’
‘Daffodils’ by W. Wordsworth

Atmosphere can also be created in other ways:


Alliteration is repetition of a sound or letter in a succession of word.

‘Sandalwood and cedar wood and sweet white wine’
‘Cargoes’ by John Masefield


This is when we use a word that ‘sounds like’ its meaning eg. bang, crash, slither….

Alliteration and onomatopoeia work well together

‘Oh, slim and slimy
Or grim and grimy
Are the animals of the sea
Salt and oozy
And safe and snoozy
The caves where the animals be
´Grim and Gloomy’ by James Reeves


Blog 30. Category. Advice and Information. Tags:Language,Poetry,Description,Power of words

1 ping

  1. […] Using figurative language well is a skill. Just including some will not work as well as being very selective, and also ruthless in analysing what you have written. […]

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