Rhetorical Devices & Figures of Speech

Topics: Rhetoric, Figure of speech, Rhetorical question Pages: 9 (2685 words) Published: January 3, 2013
(Bringing Brightness and Buoyancy to Language: Prose & Poetry)


allegory: (Greek, ‘speaking otherwise’) It is a story, poem, or picture which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. It has a double meaning: a primary or surface meaning; and a secondary or under-the-surface meaning. It is a story, therefore, that can be read, understood and interpreted at two or more levels. 1. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of Christian Salvation—the best known allegory in the English language. The whole work is a simplified representation of the average man’s journey through the trials and tribulations of life on his way to Heaven. 2. An early example of the use of allegory in literature is the myth of the Cave in Plato’s Republic. Other notable instances of allegory include Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and George Orwell’s Animal Farm.


alliteration: (Latin, ‘repeating and playing upon the same letter’) The use of words starting with or containing the same letter or sound. It is a very old devise indeed in English verse and is used occasionally in prose. 1. Coleridge’s famous description of the sacred river Alph in Kubla Khan: ‘Five miles meandering with a mazy motion.’ 2. Alliteration is common in tongue-twisters: Betty Botter bought some butter, But, she said, the butter’s bitter; If I put it in the batter It will make my batter bitter, But a bit of better butter, That would make my batter better.


anacoluthon: (Greek, ‘back bending’) A sentence or construction in which the expected grammatical sequence is absent, considered an error in Grammar. Beginning a sentence in one way and continuing or ending it in another—used as a rhetorical device to achieve a particular effect. 1. While in the garden, the door banged shut. (Error in Grammar) 2. You know what I—but let’s forget it! (Rhetorical Device)


anadiplosis: (Greek, ‘doubling’) The repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of the following clause to gain a special effect.

1. Dr Johnson’s Rambler No. 21: ‘Labour and care are rewarded with success, success produces confidence, confidence relaxes industry, and negligence ruins the reputation which diligence had raised.’


anaphora: (Greek, ‘carrying up or back’) 1. (Grammar) The use of a word referring back to a word used earlier in a text or conversation, to avoid repetition. For example: ‘I like it so do they.’ 2. (Rhetoric) The repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses. For example: the lament for Lancelot in Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur: …. you were never matched of earthly knight’s hand; and you were the most courteous knight that ever bore shield; and you were the truest friend to your lover that ever bestrode horse; and you were the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved women; and you were the kindest man that ever struck with sword; and you were the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights; and you were the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies; and you were the sternest knight to your mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.


anastrophe: (Greek, ‘turning back’: used in Rhetoric) The inversion of the usual order of words or clauses for a particular effect. 1. ‘The question between preaching extempore and from a written discourse, it does not properly fall within the province of this discourse to discuss on any but what may be called rhetorical principles.’ —Richard Whateley’s Elements of Rhetoric.


antithesis: (Greek, ‘opposition’) Fundamentally, contrasting ideas sharpened by the use of opposite or noticeably different meanings. An expression in which contrasting ideas are carefully balanced. 1. ‘Crafty men contemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them.’— Bacon’s apophthegm

2. ‘Though studious, he was popular; though argumentative, he was modest; though inflexible, he...
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