A-Z index of rhetorical devices

Hundreds of rhetorical devices have been identified. However most of them are not useful in public speaking.  Here we present a list of the most important ones, listed in alphabetic order. The brief definitions here are intended to serve as a quick reference. For more information, click the terms. You can navigate back here using a button at the bottom of each page.

A - Z listing of Rhetorical Devices

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  • Alliteration: repetition of the initial sound of each word in a sequence.
  • Allusion: a figure of speech; in which something (usually a work of literature or art) is referred to covertly or indirectly.
  • Anacoenosis: or Common Cause is where a speaker appeals to an audience for their opinion or judgement on a topic.
  • Analogy: a comparison between two different things whose primary purpose is to bring forth some insight based on a point of similarity.
  • Anadiplosis: a word or phrase at the end of one sentence or clause repeats at or near the beginning of the next sentence or clause.
  • Anaphora: repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences.
  • Anastrophe: inversion of the normal word order for emphasis.
  • Antanagoge: presenting the audience with a negative fact and then putting a positive fact next to it.
  • Antithesis: juxtaposition of contrasting words or ideas (often; although not always; in parallel structure).
  • Antimetabole: a device that reverses the word order in a phrase to juxtapose the meaning.
  • Aporia: a rhetorical device in which a speaker expresses doubt or uncertainty about something.
  • Apposition: a grammatical construction in which two co-ordinate elements are placed side by side with the second acting as an explanation of the first.
  • Assonance: repetition of similar vowel sounds, surrounded by different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words.
  • Asterismos: beginning a segment of speech with an exclamation of a seemingly unnecessary word or phrase.
  • Asyndeton: deliberate omission of conjunctions between clauses, often resulting in a hurried rhythm.


  • Bicolon: two parallel phrases with grammatically equal structures.


  • Chiasmus: Repetition of similar concepts within a repeated grammatical structure, though not necessarily the repetition of the same words (that would be antimetabole).
  • Consonance: repetition of consonants in adjacent words in the same line of text.


  • Diacope: repetition of a word or phrase that is broken up by a single intervening word, or a small number of intervening words.


  • Epanalepsis: ending sentences with their beginning.
  • Epistrophe: repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses or sentences.
  • Epizeuxis: repetition of a single word, with no other words in between.
  • Erotema: rhetorical question. To affirm or deny a point strongly by asking it as a question.
  • Eutrepismus: the act of stating points in the form of a numbered list.
  • Exergasia: repetition of an idea; using different words; delivery or general treatment each time.
  • Expeditio: after enumerating all possibilities by which something could have occurred, the speaker eliminates all but one.


  • Hendiatris: a figure of speech where three words are used to express a central idea.
  • Hyperbaton: a generic term for a variety of figures involving transposition of words or clauses.
  • Hyperbole: a figure of speech that uses deliberate and extreme exaggeration to create a strong emotional response, emphasize a statement, or add a sense of drama.
  • Hypophora: answering one's own rhetorical question at length.


  • Irony: the juxtaposition of what on the surface appears to be the case and what is actually the case or to be expected.
  • Isocolon: a succession of phrases, clauses, or sentences of approximately equal length and corresponding structure.


  • Juxtaposition: the adjacent placement of two (or more) dissimilar concepts (not necessarily opposites).


  • Litotes: an understatement achieved by negating the opposite statement.


  • Meiosis: a type of euphemism that intentionally understates the size or importance of its subject.
  • Mesodiplosis: repetition of the same word or words in the middle of successive sentences.
  • Metaphor a figure of speech which compares two things by saying or implying that one is the other.
  • Metonymy: a figure of speech in which you refer to something or someone by naming something closely associated with it/them.


  • Onomatopoeia: use of a word that phonetically imitates, resembles, or suggests the sound that it describes.
  • Oxymoron: a figure of speech in which seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side.


  • Paradox: a self-contradictory statement that expresses a deeper truth.
  • Parallelism: the successive use of identical grammatical patterns of words, phrases, or sentences.
  • Personification: a type of metaphor that gives human characteristics, such as emotions and behaviors, to inanimate objects and animals, to express a point or idea in a more colorful, imaginative way.
  • Polyptoton: repeating a word, but in a different form.
  • Polysyndeton: the deliberate use of many conjunctions between clauses, often slowing the tempo or rhythm.
  • Procatalepsis: a figure of speech in which the speaker raises an objection to their own argument and then immediately answers it, before the listener has time to raise it.
  • Proverb: a widely known expression that typically conveys a moral or wise message.


  • Simile: a figure of speech that directly compares two things using comparison words such as "like", "as", "so", or "than".
  • Symploce: The combination of both anaphora and epistrophe in neighboring clauses or sentences.
  • Synecdoche: Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a term for a part of something is used to refer to the whole, or vice versa.


  • Tetracolon: four parallel words, phrases, or clauses, which come in quick succession without interruption.
  • Tricolon: three parallel words, phrases, or clauses, which come in quick succession without interruption.