A figure of speech is a word or phrase that is meant to be taken metaphorically. In other words, they have a figurative meaning, not a literal one. Let’s look at an example of two people talking to get an idea of what it looks like.
Kyle: “I’m not sure I can give this presentation, I have butterflies in my stomach.”
Brad: “What? Did you swallow a butterfly?”
Kyle: “No, it’s a figure of speech. I just mean I’m nervous.”
In this example, the figure of speech has been italicized. When taken literally, it doesn’t make much sense. So to properly understand what Kyle is saying, we need to discern the figurative meaning of the phrase he used. In this case, it means ‘to feel nervous.’
Note: A synonym for a figure of speech is a metaphor. Now, while this is a separate article, if you want to learn more about the definition of a metaphor and see examples of metaphors in sentences, then that page may be of some use to you.
10 Common Figure of Speech Examples
Here is a list with examples of figures of speech that are commonly heard in everyday conversations. You have probably already heard some of these before.
1. Draw a Blank.
2. Down To The Wire
3. A Chip On Your Shoulder
4. Hold Your Horses
5. Let The Cat Out Of The Bag
6. On The Same Page
7. Night Owl
8. The Early Bird Gets The Worm
9. A Dime a Dozen
10. All Bark and No Bite
After looking at this list, do you feel like you are starting to understand what figures of speech are? If so, I have an idea: let’s do a quick test. I’ll show you three figure of speech examples that are located somewhere within the sentences listed below. Try to see if you can identify them all, and don’t worry, there is no time limit. (Tap the + symbol to reveal the answer if you’re having difficulty.)
Example #1: This word puzzle is driving me bananas! Rather than sit here getting increasingly frustrated, I think it would be best if I took a break and came back to it another time.
Example #2: I worked hard today and I got a lot done, but there are still a few more chores left to do. I decided to hit the hay early and left the unfinished chores for tomorrow.
Example #3: I saw a funny video that had me in stitches, but when I showed it to my friend, it was a swing and a miss.
Were you able to find them all? In total, there were four figures of speech in the examples and sentences listed above. If you were able to identify each metaphor, then you probably have a decent grasp on what a figure of speech is by now. If that’s the case, then I want to mention one more thing.
Figures of Speech and Idioms
Do you know what idioms are? Put simply, an idiom is a group of words that have a different definition than what they say. Idioms are similar to figures of speech because they both have a figurative definition. This can be seen in the three examples mentioned earlier, each figure of speech from those examples is also an idiom!
Would you be interested to learn more about them? Well, then have a look at our idiom examples page once you’re through here. Anyway, hopefully by now you have an understanding of what a figure of speech because, you know, that was kind of the point of this entire page. If not, perhaps go back and think about the definition again. And if after that you are still unsure, then I apologize for dropping the ball. Get it? It’s… a figure of speech.