20 Figures of Speech That We Never Heard About in School

...but should have

Yoda
Yoda uses the figure of gradatio: "Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hatred; hatred leads to conflict; conflict leads to suffering.". (Justin Sullivan /Getty Images)

You probably know many figures of speech, such terms as metaphor and metonymy, irony and understatement—all the rhetorical terms that you probably learned in school.

But what about some of the less familiar figures and tropes? There are hundreds of them, after all. And while we may not recognize their names, we use and hear a good number of these devices every day.

So let's take a look at 20 uncommon words (most of them Latin or Greek) for some fairly common rhetorical strategies.

  1. Accismus - Coyness; a form of irony in which a person feigns a lack of interest in something that he or she actually desires.
  2. Anadiplosis - Repetition of the last word of one line or clause to begin the next.
  3. Apophasis - Emphasizing a point by seeming to pass over it—that is, mentioning something while disclaiming any intention of mentioning it.
  4. Aposiopesis - An unfinished thought or broken sentence.
  5. Bdelygmia - A litany of abuse—a series of critical epithets, descriptions, or attributes.
  6. Boosting - An adverbial construction used to support a claim or express a viewpoint more assertively and convincingly.
  7. Chleuasmos - A sarcastic reply that mocks an opponent, leaving him or her without an answer.
  8. Dehortatio - Dissuasive advice given with authority.
  9. Diatyposis - Recommending useful precepts or advice to someone else.
  10. Epexegesis - Adding words or phrases to further clarify or specify a statement already made.
  1. Epimone - Frequent repetition of a phrase or question; dwelling on a point.
  2. Epizeuxis - Repetition of a word or phrase for emphasis (usually with no words in between).
  3. Hypocrisis - Exaggerating the gestures or speech habits of another in order to mock him.
  4. Paronomasia - Punning, playing with words.
  5. Prolepsis - ​A figurative device by which a future event is presumed to have already occurred.
  1. Skotison - Intentionally obscure speech or writing, designed to confuse an audience rather than clarify an issue.
  2. Synathroesmus - The piling up of adjectives, often in the spirit of invective.
  3. Tapinosis - Name calling; undignified language that debases a person or thing.
  4. Tetracolon Climax - A series of four members, usually in parallel form.
  5. Zeugma - Use of a word to modify or govern two or more words although its use may be grammatically or logically correct with only one.