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AP English Language and Composition/ENG 121 » General Handouts for AP/ENG 121 » Figures of Speech: Schemes and Tropes

Figures of Speech: Schemes and Tropes Figures of Speech: Schemes and Tropes
Includes a link to web sites that will help you understand and hear the effects of these rhetorical devices

For a more extensive printer-friendly handout with examples, click on the link at the bottom of the page.

Style: Figures of Speech

These terms represent the artful deviations from ordinary expression that authors use to communicate effectively. It is more important to understand how each of these techniques contributes to rhetorical effect and the development of meaning rather than to memorize the names. For a glossary including explanations of the rhetorical impact of some these terms, click HERE. To hear how some of these rhetorical devices sound, click HERE.


Parallelism--similarity of structure in a pair of series of related words, phrases, or clauses

Isocolon--similarity not only of structure but of length

Antithesis--the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas, often in parallel structure

Anastrophe--inversion of the natural or usual word order

Parenthesis--insertion of some verbal unit in a position that interrupts the normal syntactical flow of the sentence

Apposition--placing side by side two co-ordinate elements, the second of which serves as an explanation or modification of the first

Ellipsis--the deliberate omission of a word or of words readily implied by the context

Asyndeton--deliberate omission of conjunctions between a series

 Polysyndeton--deliberate use of many conjunctions

Alliteration--repetition of initial or medial consonants in two or more adjacent words

Assonance--the repetition of similar vowel forms, preceded and followed by different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words

Anaphora--repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses

Epistrophe--repetition of the same word or group of words at the ends of successive clauses

Epanalepsis--repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurred at the beginning of the clause

Anadiplosis--repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of the following clause

Climax--arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in an order of increasing importance

Antimetabole--repetition of words, in successive clauses, in reverse gram?matical order

Chiasmus--reversal of grammatical structures in a successive clauses (but no repetition of words)

Polyptoton--repetition of words derived from the same root


Metaphor--implied comparison between two things of unlike nature

Simile--explicit comparison between two things of unlike nature

Synecdoche--figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole

Metonymy--substitution of some attributive or suggestive word for what is actually meant

Antanaclasis--repetition of a word in two different senses

Paronomasis--use of words alike in sound but different in meaning

Syllepsis--use of a word understood differently in relation to two or more other words, which it modifies or governs

Anthimeria--the substitution of one part of speech for another

Periphrasis (antonomasia)--substitution of a descriptive word or phrase for a proper name or of a proper name for a quality associated with the name

Personification (prosopopoeia)--investing abstractions for inanimate objects with human qualities or abilities

Hyperbole--the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or heightened effect

Litotes--deliberate use of understatement

Rhetorical question--asking a question, not for the purpose of eliciting an answer but for the purpose of asserting or denying something obliquely

Irony--use of a word in such a way as to convey a meaning opposite to the literal meaning of the word

Onomatapoeia--use of words whose sound echoes the sense

Oxymoron--the yoking of two terms which are ordinarily contradictory

Paradox--an apparently contradictory statement that nevertheless contains a measure of truth

From: Corbett, Edward P.J. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, 3rd Edition; 1990

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