What are literary figures?

We explain what literary figures are and for what purpose they are used. In addition, the types of rhetorical figures that exist and various examples.

  1. What are literary figures?

Literary figures, tropes or rhetorical figures, are a series of language turns that are used to beautify speech , especially in the context of oratory and literature , significantly altering the common and everyday way of using language.

They are usually used for aesthetic or persuasive purposes, as part of an  elaborate discourse , and they emphasize the poetic function of language : the one that focuses on how to convey the message above all else. They can also be found in colloquial language, as a creative or playful twist.

A complete catalog of literary figures would be extremely extensive, as dozens of them are recorded. The best known and frequently used are:

  • etáfora and simile . They go together because they are comparisons: two terms are directly or indirectly collated to highlight some quality between them, whether by similarity, difference, figurative sense, etc. The metaphor is done directly, replacing terms; the simile indirectly, with a comparative nexus: “like”, “like”, etc.
  • ipérbole . It is an exaggeration for expressive purposes: to emphasize or minimize a particular feature of something.
  • etonymy . A form of metaphor, in which the name of one thing is taken by that of another, with which it is related or has a nexus of closeness or belonging.
  • indocdoque . Another form of metaphor, but this time it takes the name of something by the major category to which it belongs (as a species, group, etc.) that is, it takes the name of a part for the whole.
  • ersonification . It consists of attributing human properties to an inanimate object or an animal.
  • Anaphora . It consists of the rhythmic repetition of sounds or syllables within a verse or phrase.
  • Allegory . It occurs when we refer to something without naming it, but through a set of metaphorical associations or indirect allusions.
  • ipérbaton . In this case, the traditional order of the sentence is altered to allow a more singular expression, either adjusting to the metric (as in rhymed poetry) or not.
  • Or nomatopeya . It consists of the verbal representation of a sound through its spoken equivalent.
  • inesthesia . A sensation (tactile, olfactory, auditory, etc.) is attributed to an object or situation that does not normally correspond.
  • Or xymoron . It consists of the joint use of two terms or descriptions whose meanings contradict each other.
  • Ellipsis . It occurs when some term of the sentence or sentence is omitted, either for the purpose of generating suspense or because it has become clear from previous sentences and it would be redundant to repeat it.
  • Asyndeton . It consists in the suppression of a copulative nexus (“and”) within an enumeration or context in which it would commonly go.
  • Polysyndeton . Contrary to the previous case, it incorporates an excess of copulative links, generating a repetition in the sentence.
  1. Examples of literary figure

Literary figures
Literary figures emphasize the poetic function of language.


  • “The snow of time in his head” (to refer to gray hair)
  • “His withered and brittle arms” (to refer to old age or weakness)
  • “The flames of her hair” (to say they are red)


  • “His hair was snow white”
  • “His arms were so old they looked withered and brittle.”
  • “His hair was red like the flames of a torch”


  • “I told you millions of times” (there were many)
  • “In the corner supermarket they are giving away the detergent” (they sell it very cheaply)
  • “The most beautiful woman in the world” (she thought it was very beautiful)


  • “Do you want to eat Japanese today?” (Japanese food)
  • “Are we going to the Peruvian on the corner?” (to the Peruvian restaurant)
  • “He took a Scot on the rocks” (a Scotch whiskey)


  • “He extracted the steel from his sheath” (the metal of the sword)
  • “Without work and with four mouths to feed” (four children)
  • “Cat parasites infect man” (individual by species)


  • “The river runs fast down the slope”
  • “The sun smiled at the adventurers”
  • “The city opened its arms to me that night”


  • “Miguel and Celeste meet, Miguel hugs her, Celeste kisses him”
  • “You and your fears. You and your failures. You and your desire to lose. ”
  • “They were taken alive and we love them alive”


  • “When you left, I lost everything” (he suffered a lot)
  • “I found a treasure in you” (a very valuable relationship)
  • “I do have calluses on my hands” (yes I am a worker)


  • “In your mouth a sweet kiss I hung”
  • “You can’t teach love”
  • “To our bed wrapped in sheets come back, love”


  • “Tic, knock” (the clock)
  • “Pum, pum, pum” (the anti-aircraft artillery)
  • “Suishhh” (the lightsaber)


  • “His name tasted like jasmine”
  • “He had a furious, intermittent color”
  • “It was a book that smelled like corpses”


  • “The  luminous darkness  of the afternoon”
  • “A  beautiful monstrosity ”
  • “The  sweet bitterness  of my being”


  • “I want to cry, don’t you?” (You don’t feel like it too?)
  • “We went back to Ramon’s room and it wasn’t” (Ramón wasn’t there)
  • “Rodrigo is a movie fan, Mireya is not so much” (Mireya is not as fanatic as he is)


  • “Bought potatoes, lettuce, tomato”
  • “Lightning, snow, risks of all kinds fell from the sky”
  • “Marinate, stir, let cool, stir again”


  • “The night came and also the breeze, and the laments and despair”
  • “And you, and me, and us”
  • “The house is big and bright and cozy”

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