20 Figures of Speech That We Never Heard About in School*

*But Should Have

Yoda
In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 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)

One of the most popular pages at About.com Grammar & Composition is Top 20 Figures of Speech: definitions and examples of 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 (many collected in our Tool Kit for Rhetorical Analysis).

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. To view examples of a device (along with its etymology and a guide to pronunciation), simply click on the term to visit a page in our glossary.

  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.
  1. Chleuasmos
    A sarcastic reply that mocks an opponent, leaving him or her without an answer.
  2. Dehortatio
    Dissuasive advice given with authority.
  3. Diatyposis
    Recommending useful precepts or advice to someone else.
  4. Epexegesis
    Adding words or phrases to further clarify or specify a statement already made.
  5. Epimone
    Frequent repetition of a phrase or question; dwelling on a point.
  1. Epizeuxis
    Repetition of a word or phrase for emphasis (usually with no words in between).
  2. Hypocrisis
    Exaggerating the gestures or speech habits of another in order to mock him.
  3. Paronomasia
    Punning, playing with words.
  4. Prolepsis
    Figurative device by which a future event is presumed to have already occurred.
  5. Skotison
    Intentionally obscure speech or writing, designed to confuse an audience rather than clarify an issue.
  6. Synathroesmus
    The piling up of adjectives, often in the spirit of invective.
  7. Tapinosis
    Name calling: undignified language that debases a person or thing.
  8. Tetracolon Climax
    A series of four members, usually in parallel form.
  9. 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.