A figure of speech, sometimes termed a rhetorical figure or device, or elocution, is a word or phrase that departs from straightforward, literal language. Figures of speech are often used and crafted for emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity. However, clarity may also suffer from their use.
Note that not all theories of meaning necessarily have a concept of "literal language" (see Literal and figurative language). Under theories that do not, figure of speech is not an entirely coherent concept.
As an example of the figurative use of a word, consider the sentence, I am going to crown you. It may mean:
I am going to place a literal crown on your head.
I am going to symbolically exalt you to the place of kingship.
I am going to knock you in the head.
Figures of speech have been classified into a number of different categories. Most figures originated out of centuries of philologicalcommentary on ancient texts, and so most are named from Greek or Latin, as they originally were meant to classify grammatical peculiarities of those languages.
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