Rhetorical Figures Beginning with “B” and “C”

Let’s keep learning about rhetorical figures! Many of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, and poets were expert students of rhetoric. By mastering rhetorical figures, they were able to employ persuasive and powerful structures to express their thoughts. Whether you’re preparing for the SAT essay, an English AP course, or rhetoric and composition courses in college, this list of rhetorical figures will surely enlighten you! There are, of course, hundreds of named rhetorical figures, and there are different names for the same rhetorical figure in many instances. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start learning about rhetoric. Many of the definitions and examples here come from the invaluable Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric, maintained by Gideon O. Burton of BYU. If you’re interested in rhetoric, definitely check out Burton’s site!

Without further ado, here are today’s rhetorical figures, all of them beginning with the letter “B” or “C”:


employing non-standard foreign languages or speech; a word awkwardly forced into a poem’s meter; an incorrect pronunciation

Examples of barbarism:

To you he appeals that knew him ab extrema pueritia, whose placet he accounts the plaudite of his pains, thinking his day-labor was not altogther lavish’d sine linea if there be anything of all in it that doth olere Atticum in your estimate.

—Thomas Nash, Preface to Greene’s Menaphon

Pronouncing “bourgeoisie” as “bur-goy’-zee”


Expressing hatred of a person, place, or thing

Example of bdelygmia:

“What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.”

—Tybalt in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet


a blessing or the act of blessing

Example of benedictio:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

—Genesis 1:28


exaggeration and self-aggrandizement; boasting, bragging

Example of bomphiologia:

“I’m very highly educated. I know words. I have the best words.”

—Donald Trump


the absence of conjunctions between single words

Examples of brachylogia:

Phillip! Rise! Eat! Leave!

Love, hate, jealousy, frenzy, fury drew him from pity —Angel Day


the use of a word in context in a manner that differs from its proper usage

Example of catachresis:

“I will speak daggers to her.”

—Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet


Ordering words from greatest to least dignity, or in the correct chronological order

Examples of catacosmesis:

Sun and moon

Sun and stars

Life and death


Affirming negative qualities that one then passes over

Example of cataphasis:

I will say nothing here of his fraudulent practices.


Threatening or predicting payback for ill doings

Example of cataplexis:

For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps,
Side-stitches, that shall pen thy breath up; urchins
Shall, for that vast of night that they may work,
All exercise on thee; thou shalt be pinch’d
As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging
Than bees that made ’em.

—Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest


Raising the issue of an opponent’s secret wickedness to his face

Example of categoria:

Will you deny your late night trysts with that man’s wife? Shall we discuss your incessant drinking? Your shady business deals?


The description of a person’s character.

Example of characterismus:

He is a monster both in mind and in body; whatever part of mind or body you consider, you will find a monster ) quivery head, rabid eyes, a dragon’s gape, the visage of a Fury, distended belly, hands like talons ready to tear, feet distorted, in short, view his entire physical shape and what else does it all present but a monster? Observe that tongue, observe that wild beast’s roar, and you will name it a monstrosity; probe his mind, you will find a horror; weigh his character, scrutinize his life, you will find all monstrous; and, not to pursue every point in detail, through and through he is nothing but a monster.

—Erasmus, De copia


Repetition of ideas in an inverted order OR the repetition of grammatical structures in inverted order

Examples of chiasmus:

But O, what damned minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts; suspects, yet strong loves.
—Shakespeare, Othello 3.3

The idea of affection occurs in “dotes” and “strongly loves”; the idea of doubting in “doubts” and “suspects”. These two ideas occur in the quotation in an A B B A order, thus repeated and inverted

It is boring to eat; to sleep is fulfilling

The pattern is present participle-infinitive; infinitive-present participle


Vivid representation of a certain historical time.

Example of chronographia:

“Listen, my children and you shall hear
of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
On the eighteenth of April in seventy-five,
Hardly a man is now alive,
that remembers that famous day and year.”

—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Paul Revere’s Ride”


As its name suggests, “talking around” an issue or person, typically by supplying a descriptive phrase instead of a name.

Example of circumlocution:

Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when discussing Ophelia’s virginity, calls it “your chaste treasure.”


Ordering words in increasing order of importance. Can be the same as anadiplosis if the last word of a phrase is repeated at the beginning of the next, as in this passage from the Bible:

Example of climax:

But we glory also in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience trial; and trial hope; and hope confoundeth not, because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.

—St. Paul


Repetition of two different phrases, one at the beginning and one at the end of a sentence.

Example of coenotes:

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever
O give thanks to the Lord of Lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.
— Psalm 136:1-3


Amending a term or a statement just expressed

Example of correctio:

That it should come [to this]!
But two months dead, nay, not so much, not two.

—Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

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That’s it! Hopefully this small sampling of rhetorical figures has been interesting to you. For more on rhetoric, as well as tons of SAT prep tips and ACT prep tips and college essay help, check out the rest of our blog. Looking for 1-on-1 ACT or SAT prep tutoring to help you with the college application process? Want to join an SAT or ACT group class? Contact us today!  We’re perfect-scoring tutors with years of experience helping students achieve the SAT and ACT scores they need to make their dreams a reality!


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