Figurative Language


Alliteration is a poetic technique in which the initial consonant sounds of words are repeated in close succession. To put it more simply: alliteration is when the beginning sounds of words repeat. It is important to note that alliteration is about the sounds of words, not the letters; therefore, the letter “k” and “c” can be used alliteratively (as in kitchen and cookie), as well as the letter “s” and “c” (as in sparkle and cycle). Also, the words do not need to be directly next to each other in the sentence or stanza to be considered alliterative (although they often are). There is no agreed upon rule governing the distance that alliterative words must share in order for these words to be considered alliteration, but a good guideline to follow is that if you can not detect the repetition of the sounds upon reading the text aloud, then it is unlikely that others would consider the use to be alliterative.

Examples of Alliteration Using the “B” Sound

1. Janie read a book by the babbling brook.

2. The child bounced the ball at the backyard barbeque.

3. The barbarians broke through the barricade.

4. He acts silly at times, but he was blessed with a brilliant brain.

5. The beautiful bouquet blossomed in the bright sun.

Examples of Alliteration Using the “C” and “K” Sounds

6. When the canary keeled over, the coal miners left the cave.

7. The captain couldn’t keep the men in the cabin.

8. Erin cooked cupcakes in the kitchen.

9. My Cadillac was completely crushed in a car crash.

10. The candy was killing my cavity.

Examples of Alliteration Using the “Ch” Sound

11. Despite their mother’s warnings, the children chose to chew with their mouths open.

12. The rich man was so cheap that it was chilling.

13. The crowd cheered when the champion hit the challenger with a chair.

14. We sat around the campfire and chomped on chunks of charred chicken.

15. Change the channel.


Allusion is when an author references something external to his or her work in a passing manner. For example, an author may reference a musical artist or song, a great thinker or philosopher, the author or title of a different text, or a major historical event. Allusions are a type of poetic device. Another form of the word allusion is allude. To allude is to refer to something without explaining it, to hint at it.

Allusions can be problematic. Since they are not explained, allusions depend on the reader knowing whatever external thing to which the author is alluding. For example, T. S. Eliot wrote a poem called “The Waste Land,” which is widely considered by scholars and academics to be one of the most important poems of the 20th century. Yet, “The Waste Land” is so densely packed with allusions that most casual readers find it to be impenetrable. That is to say, most readers don’t get it. This is the risk that writers take when using allusions. Allusions are a type of poetic device that depend on the reader possessing background knowledge on a thing that is not further explained. You should use them with caution for this reason. Still confused? Let’s go over an example before I launch into the list:

We heard a kind of war-whoop, such as David might have emitted when he knocked out the champion Goliath.

In this line (taken from O. Henry’s short story, “The Ransom of Red Chief“) the speaker alludes to the biblical figures of David and Goliath. In the context of “The Ransom of Red Chief,” this line is written as a smaller character delivers a punishing blow to a much larger character. This parallels how David dispatched Goliath in the story from the Bible, which make it an allusion to the Bible. But, if you are unfamiliar with this particular biblical story, then the allusion will be lost on you.

Examples of Allusion

  1. My Mom has a Spartan workout routine.

  2. Keith was speeding down the empty road in his Mustang and listening to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the radio.

  3. This was our Declaration of Independence and if Mom didn’t let us go to that concert, she would be our King George III.

  4. Some people are calling me the Tiger Woods of miniature golf.

  5. Don’t go thinking you’re Robin Hood just cause you took an extra peppermint from the candy jar.

  6. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to understand poetry.

  7. She thinks that she loves me, and Christopher Columbus thought he was in India.

  8. Don’t wear an Abraham Lincoln hat on your first date.

  9. We do serious work in my classroom. It isn’t the Mickey Mouse Club over here.

  10. Look, I’m no Mother Teresa. I’ve made my mistakes, but I’m trying.

  11. Come. Be the Cleopatra to my Mark Antony.

  12. As I walked through the graveyard, Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” played in my head.

  13. Did you think that you were at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show when you met my parents?

  14. When Donna got her income tax refund check in the mail, she was so happy that she did the Moonwalk.

  15. Plutarch was good, and so was Homer too. if Shakespeare could write, than so can you.

  16. Well, I’m no Hercules, but I could open that jelly jar for you.

  17. Why does Cap’n Crunch always wear that Napoleon hat?

  18. Why should I read “Hamlet” or study the Battle of Hamburger Hill when the world is happening outside my window?

  19. She reminded me of the mother Mary in her grace.