Figures of Speech



A narrative in which abstract ideas figure as circumstances or persons, usually to enforce a moral truth.

For example, Fama in Aeneid 4.173-97.


Repetition of the same sound, usually intitial, in two or more words. This term normally applies to consonants and accented intitial vowels.

For example, ut te postremo donarem munere mortis/

et mutam nequiquam adloquerer cinerem,

Catullus 101.3-4.


Repetition of a word, usually at the beginning of successive clauses or phrases, for emphasis or for pathetic effect. This figure is often accompanied by asyndeton and ellipsis.

For example, Nec silicum venae, nec

durum in pectore ferrum, nec tibi simplicitas ordine

maior adest, Ovid, Amores 1.11.9-10.


An abrupt failure to complete a sentence, for rhetorical effect.

For example, Quos ego---!, Aeneid 1.135.


Address of an absent person or an abstraction, usually for pathetic effect.

For example, O terque quaterque beati, Aeneid 1.94.


The close recurrence of similar sounds, usually used of vowels sounds.

For example, amissos longo socios

sermone requirunt, Aeneid 1.217.


Omission of conjunctions in a closely related series.

For example, saevus ubi Aeacidae telo iacet Hector,

ubi ingens/Sarpedon, ubi tot Simois correpta sub undis/

scuta virum….., Aeneid 1.99-100.


(adj., chiastic) Arrangement of words, usually adjectives and nouns, in the pattern ABBA.

For example, innumeris tumidum Pythona sagittis, Ovid, Met. 1.460

(adjective A ablative, adjective B accusative, noun B accusative, noun A ablative).


An apparent digression describing a place, connected at the end of the description to the main narrative by hic or huc,

For example, et locus…., Aeneid 1.159-70. This device is used in epic for a transition to anew scene.


Omission of one or more words necessary to the sense.

For example, Haec secum (dixit), Aeneid 1.37.


The running over of a sentence from one verse or couplet into another so that closely related words fall in different lines.

For example, …..daret ut catenis Fatale monstrum, Horace, Odes 1.37.20-21.

Here the words Fatale monstrum, the object of daret, spill into the next stanza.


Use of two nouns connected by a conjunction with the meaning of one modified noun.

For example, molemque et montes, Aeneid 1.61.

Hysteron Proteron

Reversal of chronological order in order to put the more important idea first.

For example, moriamur et in media arma ruamus, Aenedi 2.353


Exaggeration for effect,

For example, terram inter fluctus aperit, Aeneid 1.107.

Interlocking Order or Synchesis

Arrangement of pairs of words so that one word of each pair is between the words of the other (ABAB). This arrangement normally emphasizes the colse association of the pairs.

For example, saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram, Aeneid 1.4.


The use, clearly intentional or apparently unintentional (dramatic irony), of words with a meaning contrary to the situation.

For example,

Iuone secunda, Aeneid 4.45 (unintentional); scilicet

is superis labor est, Aeneid 4.379 (intentional).


An understatement for emphasis, usually an assertion of something by denying the opposite.

For example, Salve, nec minimo puella naso, Catullus 43.1.


An implied comparison, that is, the use of a word or words suggesting a likeness between what is actually being described and something else.

For example, remigio alarum, Aeneid 1.301.


Use of one noun in place of another closely related noun, to avoid common or prosaic words.

For example, Cererem corruptam undis, Aeneid 1.177.


(adj., onomatopoeic or onomatopoetic) Use of words whose, sound suggests the sense.

For example, magno cum murmure montis, Aeneid 1.55.


(paradox) The use of apparently contradictory words in the same phrase. This figure is particulary Horatian.

For example, insanientis dum sapientiae. Odes 1.34.2.


Treatment of inanimate objects as human.

For example, Phaselus iile, quem videtis, hospites,/

ait fuisse navium celerrimus, Catullus 4.12.


(adj., pleonastic) use of unneccesary words.

For example, mortales visus…reliquit,/et procul in

tenuem ex oculis evanuit auram, Aeneid 4.277-78.


Use of unnecessary conjunctions.

For example, Eurusque Notusque ruunt creberque…/Africus, Aeneid 1.85-86.


Claiming to not mention or "pass over" something that one plans to say.

For example, Obliviscor iniurias tuas, Clodia, depono memoriam doloris mei; quae abs te crudeliter in meos me absente facta sunt, neglego…, Pro Caelio, 50.


Use of a word before it is appropriate in the context. A proleptic adjective does ot apply to its noun until after the action of the verb. It is often best translated with a clause or phrase, to bring out the emphasis on the adjective.

For example, submersasque obrue puppes, Aeneid 1.69.


The assumption of another’s persona for rhetorical or dramatic effect.

For example, Nihil iam in istam mulierem dico; sed, si esset aliqua dissimilis istius quae se ominibus persolgaret, quae haberet palam decretum semper aliquem, cuius in hortos, domum, Baias iure suo libidines omnium commerent, quae etiam aleret adulescentes et parsimoniam patrum suis sumptibus sustineret; si vidua libere, proterva petulanter; dives effuse, libidinosa meretricio more viveret, adulterum ego putarem si quis hanc paulo liberius salutasset? Pro Caelio 38.


An expressed comparison, introduced by a word such as similis, qualis, or velut(I).

For example, velut agimine facto, Aeneid 1.82.

Epic similes tend to be long, to relate to nature, and to digress from the point(s) of comparison (see Aeneid 1.430-36).


Use of the part of the whole to avoid common words or to focus attendtion on a particular part.

For example, rotis (for curru), Ovid, Amores, 1.2.41.


Separation of the parts of a compound word, usually for metrical convenience.

For example, circum dea fundit, Aeneid 1.412.

Transferred Epithet

A device of emphasis in which the poet attributes some characteristic of a thing to another thing closely associated with it.

For example, templumque vetustum desertae/Cereris, Aeneid 2.713-14.

Tricolon Crescens

A three-part increase of emphasis or enlargement of meaning.

For example, Q. Metelli matrimonium…

clarissimi ac fortissimi viri patriaeque amantissimi…Pro Caelio 34.


Use of a verb or adjective with two words, to only one of which it literally applies.

For example, crudeles aras traiectaque pectora ferro nudavit, Aeneid 1.355-56.