A list of rhetorical devices

  1. metaphor is a comparison in which something is said to figuratively be something else.

    He was a wolf among sheep.

  2. hyperbole is an intentional exaggeration.

    The plate exploded into a million pieces.

  3. alliteration is repeating the same or similar sounds at the beginning of words.

    She sells seashells by the sea shore.

  4. analogy is a comparison between two similar things, typically using figurative language. Metaphors and similes—more on them later—are usually considered to be types of analogies. Sometimes, analogies are considered to be a unique device that is a comparison that explains itself; basically, a complex metaphor or long simile.

    Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you are going to get.

  5. onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the sound it refers to.

    The thunder boomed and the lightning crashed.

  6. allusion is the act of casually referencing something, usually a work of popular culture.

    Finishing his memoir was his white whale.

  7. oxymoron is a figure of speech that uses two opposite words together.

    The treaty led to a violent peace.

  8. satire is using humor to criticize public figures.

    When Senator Jackson said "numbers don't lie," he forgot that his first name wasn't "Numbers."

  9. paradox refers to making a statement that seems self-contradictory or impossible but actually makes sense.

    Youth is wasted on the young.

  10. simile is a comparison in which something is said to figuratively be like something else.

    It was as hot as a desert this morning.

  11. irony irony means to use words to mean the opposite of their literal meaning.

    Ashley said it was a beautiful day while drying off from the drenching rain. (Ashley ironically referred to poor weather as "beautiful.")

  12. personification is the act of giving human elements to non-human things.

    The beautiful valley spread its arms out and embraced us.

  13. anecdote is a brief story about something that happened to the speaker, usually something funny or interesting.

    Five years ago, I went to the store and met some clowns. Those clowns gave me the advice I am sharing with you now.

  14. euphemism is using alternative language to refer to explicit or unpleasant things.

    The baseball struck him in a sensitive area.

  15. connotation is using words to suggest a social or emotional meaning rather than a literal one.

    This is a house, but I want a home.

  16. meiosis means using euphemism to minimize the importance or significance of something.

    We must put an end to this peculiar institution. ("Peculiar institution" is a euphemism for slavery.)

  17. apostrophe occurs when a writer or speaker directly addresses an absent person, a concept, or an inanimate object.

    You have made a fool out of me for the last time, washing machine!

  18. antithesis is using parallel sentences or clauses to make a contrast.

    No pain, no gain.

  19. sarcasm is using irony to mock something or to show contempt.

    Oh, yeah, he is a great guy. A great guy who took the last slice of pizza.

  20. consonance is a repetition of consonants or consonant sounds.

    Mike likes Ike's bike.

  21. rhetorical question is a question that isn't intended to be answered. The point of asking the question is to make an audience think or to cause an emotional reaction.

    Can we really know what our place in the universe is? We have asked ourselves this question for millennia.

  22. epithet An epithet is a nickname or descriptive term used to refer to someone.

    You need to listen to me and not Clueless Kevin over there.

  23. anaphora is the repetition of a word or words at the start of phrases, clauses, or sentences.

    I came, I saw, I conquered.

  24. climax is ordering words so that they build up in intensity.

    Look at the sky! It's a bird! A plane! Superman!

  25. cacophony is the act of purposefully using harsh sounds.

    The gnashing of teeth and screeching of bats kept me awake.

  26. assonance Assonance is the repetition of the same vowel sound with different consonants.

    She and Lee see the bees in the tree.

  27. pun is when one humorously uses words with multiple meanings or words with similar sounds to create wordplay.

    The farmer tried to get his cows to get along, but they insisted on having a beef with each other.

  28. parallelism is using grammatically similar phrases or sentences together.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

  29. aphorism is a short sentence that presents truth or opinion, usually in a witty or clever manner.

    A penny saved is a penny earned.

  30. synecdoche is when a part of something is used to refer to a whole.

    The commander had an army of 10,000 swords. (The people holding the swords were there, too.)

  31. parody is an imitation of something with the intent to poke fun at it.

    If Edgar Allen Poe had written this speech, it might have opened with "Here we are, weak and weary, gathered on a Monday dreary."

  32. colloquialism is an instance of informal language or a local expression. The act of using such language is also called colloquialism.

    Here in Philly, we love to eat hoagies and all kinds of tasty jawns.

  33. understatement is using language to intentionally lessen a major thing or event.

    The erupting volcano was a little problem for the neighboring city.

  34. syllogism is an argument based on deductive reasoning that uses generalizations to reach specific conclusions. Usually, a syllogism follows the format of "A is B. B is C. So, A is C."

    Dogs are mammals. Biscuit is a dog. Therefore, Biscuit is a mammal.

  35. eponym refers to "a word based on or derived from a person's name," such as the Gallup poll, named after statistician G.H. Gallup, or Reagonomics (a combination of the last name Reagan and economics). As a rhetorical device, an eponym can be an allusion to a famous person.

    He is the Captain America of chess.

  36. metonymy is when the name of something is replaced with something related to it.

    He loved music from the cradle (birth) to the grave (death).

  37. parenthesis is an interruption used for clarity.

    The audience, or at least the paying members of the audience, enjoyed the show.

  38. expletive is an interrupting word or phrase used for emphasis.

    The eggs were not, in any sense of the word, delicious.

  39. metanoia metanoia refers to any instance of self-correction. Metanoia can involve things like retracting a previous statement to replace it with a new one or amplifying a previous statement by using stronger language.

    We'll work on it on Sunday. No, let's make that Monday—it's the weekend after, all!

  40. chiasmus is reversing the grammatical order in two otherwise parallel phrases or sentences.

    Dog owners own dogs and cats own cat owners.

  41. asyndeton is the removal of conjunctions from a sentence.

    Get in, cause a distraction, get out.