KOLEC Lesson 32: Other Figures of Speech

KOLEC Lesson 32: Other Figures of Speech



Other Figures of Speech include:

(1) Symbolism

(2) Irony

(3) Satire

(4) Sarcasm

(5) Allusion 

(6) Euphemism

(7) Archaism 

(8) Rhetorical questions



(1) Symbolism

The symbol means a sign or something that stands for or suggests something else. Symbolism refers to the use of words in such a way that they represent or stand for something else. A symbol expands the meaning. 


  • The Cross to stand for Christianity
  • Lion to symbolize bravery. 
  • The flag stands for the ideals and values of a nation. 

A symbol can be identified as universal, cultural, regional, or personal. Many symbols are generally recognized by people around the world. These universal symbols include:

Water - as a symbol of life. 

Rose (a flower) - as a symbol of love and care. 

Honey - a symbol of the sweetest things like love. 

Spouting fountain - symbolizes optimism or bubbling life. 

Stagnant pool - as a symbol of the pollution and underdevelopment. 

A turbulent stream, a roaring waterfall, and a stormy sea - as symbols of uncertainty or chaos. 

(2) Irony

It is a figure of speech in which there is a contrast or discrepancy between the expectations and the reality.

Types of Irony:

Irony can take several forms. They are: 

(i) Verbal irony. It is the kind of irony that exists when someone says one thing but means the opposite. 

For example, if a parent sees the string of Ds on his child's exam report and tells the child, "You passed your exams well, my child!" Here a parent is saying one thing that is the opposite. 

(ii) Situational irony. This irony exists when the outcome of a situation is opposite or contrary to what someone expected and it seems to mock human intentions. 

For example, a character that fights for freedom can end up being jailed contrary to his expectations. Then his or her illusion becomes disillusioned. 

(iii) Dramatic irony. This kind of irony occurs when the audience knows something that the characters do not know. It is the kind of irony that occurs when we know what is going to happen to a character, but the character himself/herself does not know. This is called dramatic irony because it is so often used on the stage. 

(3) Satire

This is a figure of speech in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are ridiculed with the intent of shaming the individuals, government or society itself. It is a way of criticizing something in which you deliberately make them seem funny so that people can see their faults. Satire is a close relative of irony and often uses irony to accomplish its purpose. Hence, a feature of satire is strong irony or strong sarcasm. Parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are all frequently used in satirical speech and writing. The satirist wants to expose and eliminate human stupidity and wickedness, injustice, or cruelty. Satire nowadays is found in plays, commentary, television shows, and music. 


  • A writer can mock the Europeans who were involved in the slave trade that in fact, they were selling themselves.
  • 'Eat more bloody grass', the line from the poem Eat More by Joe Corrie. 
  • 'Let us die because our death is a luxury to you, heavyweights.' 

Forms of Satire:

Satire is a diverse and complex figure of speech with a wide range of forms. In literature, satire is commonly categorized into two main forms: 

(i) Horatian satire. This satire is named after Roman satirist, Quintus Horace. It is a kind of satire that makes fun of general human folly rather than engaging in specific personal attacks. Horatian satire directs wit, exaggeration, and humour toward what it identifies as folly, rather than evil. The goal of this satire is to heal the situation with smiles, rather than anger. This satire is a gentle reminder to take life less seriously and evokes a wry smile. Horatian satires sympathetic tone is common in modern society. For example, in a work of art that uses Horatian satire, readers or viewers often laugh at the characters in the story who are the subject of mockery as well as themselves and society for behaving in those ways. 

(ii) Juvenalian satire. It is named after the writings of the Roman satirist, Juvenal

Juvenalian satire uses the satirical tools of exaggeration and parody to make the targets appear monstrous and incompetent. It attacks public officials and governmental organisations not just as wrong, but as evil. Therefore, Juvenalian satire addresses perceived social evil through scorn, outrage, and savage ridicule. It uses irony, sarcasm, moral indignation and personal invective, with less emphasis on humour. The goal of Juvenalian satire is to provoke some sort of political or societal things that are seen as objects of evil or harm.

(4) Sarcasm

It is a figure of speech that expresses bitterness. Apart from being ironic, sarcasm is always bitter and it aims at inflicting the pain. Most often the writer or the speaker shows that he or she is annoyed and he/she uses harsh and cruel words. Sarcasm is intended to wound and to bite in a hurtful way. 

For instance, someone looking at a child's bad exam report card may be sarcastic if he says: "I have seen shirts with higher IQs than yours"

Also you can tell someone who has kept you waiting for him for a long time; "Good of you to arrive on time. Let's continue with the discussion." 

(5) Allusion

This is a reference in a work of literature to a well-known person, place, event, written work, or work of art. It is the use of well-known things in moulding a literary work. The allusion is dominated by physical and historical things or events in a work. Most often allusion becomes effective only if the readers know the things being alluded to or talked about. 

For example, If a poem has the phrase "Maji Maji Uprising", then this allusion will only be clear to those who know about the Maji Maji Resistance. 

Another allusion can be the name of "Hitler" in the novel, "Weep Not Child" by Ngugi wa Thiongo. The readers who know Hitler will understand while those who do not know him will not understand.

(6) Euphemism

It is a figure of speech that uses less offensive words to avoid offending the people or readers with strong words. In this case, indirectness replaces the directness of a statement to avoid offensiveness in some words. 

For example:

  • "Pass away" instead of dying.
  • "In the family way" instead of pregnant. 
  • "Pass water" instead of urinating. 

(7) Archaism

It implies the use of words that are no longer in use in modern English or any other modern language. 

For example, the words like 'thou' and 'thy' are old English words that mean 'you' and 'your' respectively but they are no longer in use in modern English. 

(8) Rhetorical questions

In literature, these are questions asked by the persona or character in the literary work, but that do not require a reply or an answer. 

For example, when a character is speaking to a dead fellow: "Why did you die without saying goodbye to me?" Here the answer is not expected but the message is sent to the intended destination that the dead person was so important to the mourner.

Note: These are common figures of speech in most literary works. However, each genre may have its peculiar terminologies and figures of speech. 

This course is prepared and offered by: 


Social Media: @mannykachele

Instagram: @manny.english

Call/WhatsApp: 0622009566/0765884936

Email: kacheleonline@gmail.com 

Website:  www.kacheleonline.co.tz

Copyright © 2022, KACHELE ONLINE. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, shared or transmitted in any form without the written permission from KACHELE ONLINE.

ISBN     978-9912-9931-1-2

Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

Post a Comment

Please share your thoughts

Previous Post Next Post