Anaphora Definition

In writing or speech, the deliberate repetition of the first part of the sentence in order to achieve an artistic effect is known as Anaphora.

Example #1

Shakespeare does not disappoint us in the use of anaphora too. Read the following example taken from his play “Richard II” Act 2 Scene 1:

“This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings [. . .]
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,”

The repetition of the word “this” creates an emotional effect on the readers particularly those who are English.

Further, it highlights the significance of England. The repetition of the word “dear” shows emotional attachment of the writer to the land and expects a similar response from the readers as well.


Anastrophe refers to the inversion of the typical word order in a sentence.

Writers and speakers may use anastrophe to bring attention to specific concepts, but also to set apart a character.

A character’s speech may be distinguished in a text by frequent use of anastrophe.

Examples of Anastrophe:

1. Excited the children were when Santa entered the room.

2. Patience I lack.

3. A roast is what we will have for dinner.

Examples of Anastrophe in Literature

“Strong in the force, you are.” Yoda, Star Wars

Antithesis, literal meaning opposite, is a rhetorical device in which two opposite ideas are put together in a sentence to achieve a contrasting effect.

Examples – We find antithesis in John Donne’s poem “Community”:

“Good we must love, and must hate ill,
For ill is ill, and good good still;
But there are things indifferent,
Which we may neither hate, nor love,
But one, and then another prove,
As we shall find our fancy bent.

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Two contrasting words “love” and “hate” are combined in the above lines. It emphasizes that we love good because it is always good and we hate bad because it is always bad. It is a matter of choice to love or hate things which are neither good nor bad.

Aporia is a figure of speech wherein a speaker purports or expresses to be in doubt or in perplexity regarding a question (often feigned) and asks the audience how he/she ought to proceed. The doubts may appear as rhetorical questions often in the beginning of the text.

Aporia is used as a rhetorical device in literature.
It is also called as dubitation, which means that the uncertainty is always untruthful.
It could be a question as well as a statement.
It is often used in philosophy. It relates to philosophical questions and subjects which have no obvious answers.
Plato and Socrates were well-known for using aporia.

Example #1

“To be, or not to be: that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all…..”

(Hamlet by William Shakespeare)

This is a prominent example of aporia available in English literature. This is an opening soliloquy of Hamlet in the play. Here, the statement “to be or not to be” is such a question that introduces the uncertainty that characterizes the paragraph.

Apostrophe Definition

In literature, apostrophe is a figure of speech sometimes represented by exclamation “O”. A writer or a speaker, using an apostrophe, detaches himself from the reality and addresses an imaginary character in his speech.

Example #1

William Shakespeare makes use of an apostrophe in his play “Macbeth”:

“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand?
Come, let me clutch thee!
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.”

In his mental conflict before murdering King Duncan, Macbeth has a strange vision of a dagger and talks to it as if it were another person.

Archaism is the derivative of a Greek word, archaïkós, which means beginning or ancient. It is a figure of speech in which a used phrase or word is considered very old fashioned and outdated. It can be a word, a phrase, a group of letters, spellings and syntax..

Archaism is the use of writing or speech which is now rarely used. It is the use of older versions of language and art. Such as in these lines, “To thine own self be true” (Hamlet by William Shakespeare). Sentences that may be considered as examples of archaism will most probably contain the words “thine” and “thou”.

Example #2

“Where the hell are you going? ….
“Thy duty,” said Agustín mockingly. “I besmirch the milk of thy duty.” Then turning to the woman, “Where the un-nameable is this vileness that I am to guard?”
“In the cave,” Pilar said. “In two sacks. And I am tired of thy obscenity.”
“I obscenity in the milk of thy tiredness,” Agustín said.
“Then go and befoul thyself,” Pilar said to him without heat.
“Thy mother,” Agustín replied….

(For Whom the Bell Tolls by Earnest Hemingway)

Hemingway has filled this paragraph with archaism. Such as the words “un-namable” and “vileness” are old fashioned and out of use. He has, however, used them purposefully to create special mysterious effect.

Asyndeton is derived from a Greek word asyndeton which means unconnected. It is a stylistic device used in literature and poetry to intentionally eliminate conjunctions between the phrases and in the sentence, yet maintain the grammatical accuracy. This literary tool helps in reducing the indirect meaning of the phrase and presents it in a concise form. It started to be seen in Greek and Latin literature.

A. One type of asyndeton is used between words, phrases and a sentence.
For example: “Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils, Shrunk to this little measure?”
(Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1 by William Shakespeare)

B. Second type is used between sentences or clauses.
For example: Without looking, without making a sound, without talking
(Oedipus at Colonus by Sophecles)

Example 3

“Is whispering nothing?
Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses?
Kissing with inside lip? stopping the career
Of laughter with a sigh? (a note infallible
Of breaking honesty!) horsing foot on foot?…”

(The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare)

In this excerpt, we can observe both types of asyndeton are employed. The first type (between the words) such as “from” is removed between the words “leaning” and “cheek” and similarly the second type (between the sentences) with the sentences not being joined by conjunctions.

If we speak literally, cacophony points to a situation where there is a mixture of harsh and inharmonious sounds. In literature, however, the term refers to the use of words with sharp, harsh, hissing and unmelodious sounds primarily those of consonants to achieve desired results.

Common Cacophony Examples

In everyday life, one of the examples of cacophony would be the amalgamation of different sounds you hear in a busy city street or market. You hear sounds of vehicles, announcements on loudspeakers, music, and chatter of people or even a dog barking at the same time and without any harmony. You can rightly point to the situation as being the cacophony of a busy street or market. We can notice the manifestation of cacophony in language as well; for instance in the sentence:

“I detest war because cause of war is always trivial.”

The part “because cause” is cacophony as because is followed by a word cause that has a similar sound but different meaning. Generally, it sounds unpleasant as the same sound is repeated in two different words.
Similarly, a discordant sound of a musical band, tuning up their musical instruments, is also an example of cacophony.

Example #3

Look at the following excerpt from Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travel”:

“And being no stranger to the art of war, I have him a description of cannons, culverins, muskets, carabines, pistols, bullets, powder, swords, bayonets, battles, sieges, retreats, attacks, undermines, countermines, bombardments, sea-fights…”

In order to describe the destructive consequences of war, the writer chooses words and arranges them in an order that they produce an effect that is unmelodious, harsh and jarring that corresponds with the subject matter.

Chiasmus is a rhetorical device in which two or more clauses are balanced against each other by the reversal of their structures in order to produce an artistic effect.

“Never let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You.”

Notice that the second half of the above mentioned sentence is an inverted form of the first half both grammatically and logically. In the simplest sense, the term chiasmus applies to almost all “criss-cross” structures and this is the concept that is common these days. In its strict classical sense, however, the function of chiasmus is to reverse grammatical structure or ideas of sentences given that the same words and phrases are not repeated.

Climax, a Greek term meaning “ladder”, is that particular point in a narrative at which the conflict or tension hits the highest point.

Climax is a structural part of a plot and is at times referred to as a crisis. It is a decisive moment or a turning point in a storyline at which the rising action turns around into a falling action. Thus, a climax is the point at which a conflict or crisis reaches its peak that calls for a resolution or denouement (conclusion). In a five-act play, the climax is close to the conclusion of act 3. Later in the 19th century, the five-act plays were replaced by three-act plays and the climax was placed close to the conclusion or at the end of the play.

Example #1

See how William Shakespeare achieves climax in the passage below, taken from his Sonnet “The Passionate Pilgrim”:

“Beauty is but a vain and doubtful good;
A shining gloss that vadeth suddenly;
A flower that dies when first it gins to bud;
A brittle glass that’s broken presently:
A doubtful good, a gloss, a glass, a flower,
Lost, vaded, broken, dead within an hour.”

The phrase “dead within an hour” is placed at the very end as it marks the climax of the fate of beauty which he introduces as “a vain and doubtful good”.

The term euphemism refers to polite, indirect expressions which replace words and phrases considered harsh and impolite or which suggest something unpleasant.

Euphemism is an idiomatic expression which loses its literal meanings and refers to something else in order to hide its unpleasantness. For example, “kick the bucket” is a euphemism that describes the death of a person. In addition, many organizations use the term “downsizing” for the distressing act of “firing” its employees.

Euphemism depends largely on the social context of the speakers and writers where they feel the need to replace certain words which may prove embarrassing for particular listeners or readers in a particular situation.

The Squealer”, a character in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, uses euphemisms to help “the pigs” achieve their political ends. To announce the reduction of food to the animals of the farm, Orwell quotes him saying:

“For the time being,” he explains, “it had been found necessary to make a readjustment of rations.”

Substituting the word “reduction” with “readjustment” was an attempt to suppress the complaints of other animals about hunger. It works because reduction means “cutting” food supply while readjustment implies changing the current amount of food.

Hyperbaton has been derived from a Greek word that means inversion in the arrangement of common words. It can be defined as a rhetorical device in which the writers play with the normal position of words, phrases and clauses in order to create differently arranged sentences, but which still suggest a similar meaning.. Hyperbaton is also known as a broader version of hypallage.

Similarity with Anastrophe

Hyperbaton is similar to anastrophe, which is the inversion of the natural word order or reversal of the word arrangement in a sentence with the aim to create rhetorical effects. Anastrophe is also regarded as a simile of hyperbaton.
Features of Hyperbaton

In hyperbaton words are not arranged in their normal order.
It is classified as the figure of disorder.
It is employed for emphasis and rhetorical effects.
It interrupts the natural flow of sentences.
It is greatly used as inflected language.

Example –

Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall….

(Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare)

This is only one of the many hyperbaton examples found in Shakespeare’s works. Here, he uses the unexpected word order, which is “some by virtue fall” instead of “some fall by virtue”. This disordering of words helps in emphasizing the phrase “virtue fall”.


Hysteron proteron is reversing of the temporal sequence in order to put of important ideas first.

I conquered, I saw, I came.

We can win by fighting hard.

She brought me up well and gave birth to my life.

Putting on my shoes and socks.

When things happen it time, it is often the latter events which are the most important, yet narrative is often given in the sequence of activities. Hysteron proteron breaks this rule, putting the important things first.

By this deliberate reversal, hysteron proteron draws attention to the important point, so giving it primacy.

Hysteron proteron is a form of Hyperbaton, which describes general rearrangements of the sentence.

Classification: Reversal, Rearrangement

Irony –
Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. It may also be a situation that may end up in quite a different way than what is generally anticipated. In simple words, it is a difference between the appearance and the reality.

Types of Irony
On the grounds of the above definition, we distinguish two basic kinds of irony i.e. verbal irony and situational irony. A verbal irony involves what one does not mean. When in response to a foolish idea, we say, “what a great idea!” it is a verbal irony. A situational irony occurs when, for instance, a man is chuckling at the misfortune of the other even when the same misfortune, in complete unawareness, is befalling him.
Difference between Dramatic Irony and Situational Irony
Dramatic irony is a kind of irony in a situation, which the writers frequently employ in their works. In situational irony, both the characters and the audience are fully unaware of the implications of the real situation. In dramatic irony, the characters are oblivious of the situation but the audience is not. For example, in “Romeo and Juliet”, we know much before the characters that they are going to die.
In real life circumstances, irony may be comical, bitter or sometimes unbearably offensive.

Irony Examples from Literature
Example #4
Irony examples are not only found in stage plays but in poems too. In his poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, Coleridge wrote:
“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

In the above stated lines, the ship, blown by the south wind, is stranded in the uncharted sea. Ironically, there is water everywhere but they do not have a single drop of water to drink.

Function of Irony
Like all other figures of speech, Irony brings about some added meanings to a situation. Ironical statements and situations in literature develop readers’ interest. Irony makes a work of literature more intriguing and forces the readers to use their imagination and comprehend the underlying meanings of the texts. Moreover, real life is full of ironical expressions and situations. Therefore, the use of irony brings a work of literature closer to the life.

Litotes, derived from a Greek word meaning “simple”, is a figure of speech which employs an understatement by using double negatives or, in other words, positive statement is expressed by negating its opposite expressions.

For example, using the expression “not too bad” for “very good” is an understatement as well as a double negative statement that confirms a positive idea by negating the opposite. Similarly, saying “She is not a beauty queen,” means “She is ugly” or saying “I am not as young as I used to be” in order to avoid saying “I am old”. Litotes, therefore, is an intentional use of understatement that renders an ironical effect.

Example –

“Indeed, it is not uncommon for slaves even to fall out and quarrel among themselves about the relative goodness of their masters, each contending for the superior goodness of his own over that of the others.”

This line has been taken from “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; An American Slave” by Frederick Douglass himself. He was an African-American social reformer and a writer. He has effectively used litotes to stress that his point that even slaves used to seek dominance over other slaves by stressing the point that their respective masters were much better than those of the other slaves.

It is a figure of speech that replaces the name of a thing with the name of something else with which it is closely associated. We can come across examples of metonymy both from literature and in everyday life.

The given lines are from Shakespeare’s “Julies Caesar” Act I.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”

Mark Anthony uses “ears” to say that he wants the people present there to listen to him attentively. It is a metonymy because the word “ears” replaces the concept of attention.

Oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two opposite ideas are joined to create an effect. The common oxymoron phrase is a combination of an adjective proceeded by a noun with contrasting meanings, e.g. “cruel kindness” or “living death”.

However, the contrasting words/phrases are not always glued together. The contrasting ideas may be spaced out in a sentence, e.g. “In order to lead, you must walk behind.”

Common Examples of Oxymoron

Open secret
Tragic comedy
Seriously funny

In Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch’s 134th sonnet,

“I find no peace, and all my war is done
I fear and hope, I burn and freeze like ice,
I flee above the wind, yet can I not arise;”

The contradicting ideas of “war…peace”, “burn ….freeze”, and “flee above…not rise” produce a dramatic effect in the above-mentioned lines.

The term Paradox is from the Greek word “paradoxon” that means contrary to expectations, existing belief or perceived opinion.

It is a statement that appears to be self-contradictory or silly but may include a latent truth. It is also used to illustrate an opinion or statement contrary to accepted traditional ideas. A paradox is often used to make a reader think over an idea in innovative way.

Example #1

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, one part of the cardinal rule is the statement,

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.

This statement seems to not make any sense. However, on closer examination, it gets clear that Orwell points out a political truth. The government in the novel claims that everyone is equal but it has never treated everyone equally. It is the concept of equality stated in this paradox that is opposite to the common belief of equality.

Pleonasm is derived from a Greek word that means “excess”. It is a rhetorical device which can be defined as the use of a second or more words (phrase) to express an idea. These words are redundant such as in the following examples of pleonasm, “burning fire” and “black darkness.” Sometimes, pleonasm is also called tautology, which is the repetition of words.

1. Syntactic Pleonasm

This occurs when the grammatical language makes specific functional words optional such as;

“I know you will come.”
“I know that you will come.”

In the given pleonasm examples, the conjunction, “that” is optional while joining a verb phrase with a sentence. Although both sentences are correct grammatically, however, the conjunction “that” is pleonastic.

2. Semantic Pleonasm

The semantic pleonasm is related more to the style of the language than the grammar such as given below.

“I am eating tuna fish burger.”

Here tuna is itself a name of fish, and there is no need to add word “fish”. Therefore, the word fish is pleonastic in the sentence.

“Let me tell you this, when social workers offer you, free, gratis and for nothing, something to hinder you from swooning, which with them is an obsession, it is useless to recoil …..”

(Molloy by Samuel Beckett)

In this example, the terms “free, gratis and for nothing” have very similar meanings. The words are repeated to create linguistic and literary effects. In this way, the words free and nothing are highlighted. This is a semantic pleonasm.

Polysyndeton is a figure of speech in which several conjunctions are used to join connected clauses in places where they are not contextually necessary. For example, consider the following sentence: “The dinner was so good; I ate the chicken, and the salad, and the turkey, and the wild rice, and the bread, and the mashed potatoes, and the cranberry sauce.” In this sentence, the repetition of “and” is not necessary and could be omitted. However, the use of polysyndeton in this example adds a sense of the amazing abundance of the dinner and that the speaker could not stop from eating or describing all of these dishes.

The word “polysyndeton” comes from a Greek compound word meaning “many” and “bound together.”

Example #1

OTHELLO: Her name, that was as fresh
As Dian’s visage, is now begrimed and black
As mine own face. If there be cords or knives,
Poison, or fire, or suffocating streams,
I’ll not endure it. Would I were satisfied!

(Othello by William Shakespeare)

In this polysyndeton example from Othello, Shakespeare repeats the conjunction “or” to illustrate the numerous ways that a person might die. Othello recites this list to show how serious he is that he does not desire to live if he finds out that Desdemona’s betrayal is true. The polysyndeton emphasizes that Othello will stop at nothing to find out the truth and dole out the consequences.

When a single word that governs or modifies two or more others must be understood differently with respect to each of those words. A combination of grammatical parallelism and semantic incongruity, often with a witty or comical effect. Not to be confused with zeugma.

Note: Originally, syllepsis named that grammatical incongruity resulting when a word governing two or more others could not agree with both or all of them; for example, when a singular verb serves as the predicate to two subjects, singular and plural (“His boat and his riches is sinking”). In the rhetorical sense, syllepsis has more to do with applying the same single word to the others it governs in distinct senses (e.g., literal and metaphorical); thus, “His boat and his dreams sank.”

Synecdoche is a literary device in which a part of something represents the whole or it may use a whole to represent a part.

Synecdoche may also use larger groups to refer to smaller groups or vice versa. It may also call a thing by the name of the material it is made of or it may refer to a thing in a container or packing by the name of that container or packing.

Synecdoche Examples from Everyday Life

It is very common to refer to a thing by the name of its parts. Let us look at some of the examples of synecdoche that we can hear from casual conversations:

The word “bread” refers to food or money as in “Writing is my bread and butter” or “sole breadwinner”.
The phrase “gray beard” refers to an old man.
The word “sails” refers to a whole ship.
The word “suits” refers to businessmen.

Example #4

Observe the use of synecdoche in the following lines from The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad:

“At midnight I went on deck, and to my mate’s great surprise put the ship round on the other tack. His terrible whiskers flitted round me in silent criticism.”

The word “whiskers” mentioned in the above lines refers to the whole face of the narrator’s mate.

In literature, synesthesia refers to a technique adopted by writers to present ideas, characters or places in such a manner that they appeal to more than one senses like hearing, seeing, smell etc. at a given time.

Generally, the term synesthesia refers to a certain medical condition in which one of the five senses simultaneously stimulates another sense. A person with such condition may not only see alphabets but also associate them with particular scents. This happens when the different parts of the brain that are responsible in identifying color, sound, taste, and smell somehow get interlinked and thus one sense triggers another sense.

Example #4

Robert Frost in his poem A Tuft of Flowers uses synesthesia:

“The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,
That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground…”

In the above excerpt, the speaker reveals a blend of sensory experiences that the speaker is experiencing. The speaker’s visual sense and his sense of hearing make him aware of his surroundings.
Example #5

Tautology is a repetitive use of phrases or words which have similar meanings. In simple words, it is expressing the same thing, an idea or saying two or more times. The word tautology is derived from the Greek word “tauto” (the same) and “logos” (a word or an idea).

A grammatical tautology means when an idea is repeated within a phrase, sentence or paragraph to give an impression that the writer is providing extra information. Tautologies are very common in the English language due to the large variety of words it has borrowed from other languages. Given the fact that during its evolution the English language has been greatly influenced by several other languages including Germanic and Latin, it is not uncommon to find several exotic tautologies. Since English has the capacity to borrow words from foreign languages, multiple similar words are used in it and this is how tautologies can often be found in poetry as well as prose.

Example #1

“Your acting is completely devoid of emotion.”

Devoid is defined as “completely empty”. Thus, completely devoid is an example of Tautology.

Zeugma Definition

Zeugma, from Greek “yoking” or “bonding”, is a figure of speech in which a word, usually a verb or an adjective, applies to more than one noun, blending together grammatically and logically different ideas.

For instance, in a sentence “John lost his coat and his temper”, the verb “lost” applies to both noun “coat” and “temper”. Losing a coat and losing temper are logically and grammatically different ideas that are brought together in the above-mentioned sentence. Zeugma, when used skillfully, produces a unique artistic effect making the literary works more interesting and effective as it serves to adorn expressions, and to add emphasis to ideas in impressive style.

Zeugma is sometimes differentiated from “Syllepsis”. Like zeugma, syllepsis also employs the technique of using a single verb for more than one part in a sentence but where that single verb applies grammatically and logically to only one. For example, in a sentence “They saw lots of thunder and lightning,” the verb “saw” is logically correct only for the lightning as thunder is “heard”. Similarly, Tennyson’s line from Ulysses, “He works his work, I mine” is an example of syllepsis as the verb “works” is grammatically correct with the first person pronoun “he” but it is incorrect grammar to say ” I works mine. Despite this distinction, syllepsis is often considered a kind of zeugma.
Bryan A. Garner gives his views about the distinction between zeugma and syllepsis in The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style:

“Although commentators have historically tried to distinguish between zeugma and syllepsis, the distinctions have been confusing and contradictory. We’re better off using zeugma in its broadest sense and not confusing matters by introducing syllepsis, a little-known term the meaning of which even the experts can’t agree on.”

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Schemes and Tropes. (2019, Feb 25). Retrieved from

Schemes and Tropes
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