Figure of Speech: Meaning & Examples from Literature & Film


Definition: A figure of speech is a rhetorical device that employs words in a non-literal, often imaginative way to convey meanings, emphasize ideas, or evoke emotions. It includes metaphors, similes, personification, and hyperbole, enhancing the expressiveness and richness of language by transcending ordinary usage.

Figures of speech are linguistic tools that enhance writing or speech by adding emphasis, clarity, or beauty.

In film, they mostly appear as part of movie titles, in the dialogue, or as part of the plot or theme.

Fx, the red and blue pills in The Matrix (1999) are a metaphor for awakening to reality versus remaining in comfortable ignorance.

The Different types of Figures of Speech

Alliteration figure of speech example - she sells sea shells by the seashore. Illustrative image.

As a literary device, figures of speech can take many forms. Here is a quick overview of each type.

For each type of figure of speech, you can click the link and see an article that gives you more insight into how it appears in film, including examples.

Figure of Speech TypeExplanationExample
AlliterationThe repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of closely connected words.She sells sea shells by the seashore.
AnaphoraThe repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses.Every day, every night, in every way, I am getting better.
ApostropheAddresses an absent person, an abstract idea, or a thing.In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Mark Antony addresses the slain Caesar in a famous speech, “O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth.”
AssonanceThe repetition of vowel sounds in closely proximate words.Hear the mellow wedding bells.
ChiasmusWords, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order, in the same or a modified form.In Cicero’s philosophical texts, such as “De Officiis,” a chiasmus can be found: “Not for ourselves alone are we born; our country, our friends, have a share in us.”
ConsonanceThe repetition of consonant sounds, typically at the end of words.The ship has sailed to the far off shores.
EuphemismA polite, indirect expressions that replace words and phrases considered harsh and impolite, or which suggest something unpleasant.He passed away instead of He died.
HyperboleAn exaggerated statement or claim not meant to be taken literally.I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.
IronyA figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. This may also be a situation that ends up in quite a different way than what is generally anticipated.A plumber spends all day working on leaky faucets and comes home to find a pipe has burst in his home.
MetaphorA direct comparison between two unrelated things, implying they are alike in a significant way.Time is a thief.
OnomatopoeiaA word that imitates the sound it represents.The bees buzzed.
OxymoronA figure of speech in which two opposite ideas are joined to create an effect.Deafening silence.
PersonificationAssigning human characteristics to non-human objects or abstract ideas.The wind whispered through the trees.
SimileA comparison between two unlike things using the words ‘like’ or ‘as.’Her smile is like sunshine.

These figures of speech are used in literature, film, and everyday language to convey meanings more vividly and imaginatively.

Figure of Speech: A few Examples from Movies

Figures of speech appear frequently in films, often enriching dialogues, monologues, and narratives.

Here are several examples of figures of speech from movies:


In the “Deadpool” (2016) Red Band Trailer, Deadpool says,

“You’re probably thinking, ‘My boyfriend said this was a superhero movie, but that guy in the suit just turned that other guy into a fucking kabab!'”


This line alludes to the typical expectations of a superhero movie, contrasting Deadpool’s violent actions with the more sanitized actions of traditional superheroes.


In “Titanic” (1997), the character Rose, played by Kate Winslet, ironically states, “It’s so unfair,” referring to her feeling trapped in her engagement and social class.

The irony is deeper when considering the tragic fate of the Titanic itself, juxtaposing her woes against a much larger disaster.


In The Lion King (1994), the Pride Lands turning barren under Scar’s rule is a metaphor for how poor leadership and greed can lead to societal decay and environmental destruction.


In Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), the characters Lumière (a candelabra), Cogsworth (a clock), and Mrs. Potts (a teapot) are examples of personification, as they are inanimate household objects given human traits, emotions, and the ability to speak.


In “Forrest Gump” (1994), Forrest says,

“Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

– Forrest Gump

This simile compares the unpredictability of life with the uncertainty of choosing a chocolate from a box without a guide.

A figure of Speech is part of a broader category of Figurative Language.

A figure of speech is part of figurative language.

Figurative language encompasses various ways of expressing ideas or thoughts in a non-literal, often more imaginative or expressive manner.

Figures of speech are specific techniques or tools (literary devices) under this broad category, including similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, etc.


The use of figures of speech in storytelling across mediums like literature and film breathes life into narratives.

Authors and filmmakers can convey complex emotions, create vivid imagery, and deepen thematic resonance by leveraging metaphors, similes, personification, and other literary devices.

Up Next: What is Iambic Pentameter?


  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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