THINK YOU’VE GOT A HANDLE ON THIS US STATE NICKNAME QUIZ?
Words nearby figurative language
What does figurative language mean?
Figurative language is language that’s intended to create an image, association, or other effect in the mind of the listener or reader that goes beyond the literal meaning or expected use of the words involved.
For this reason, the word figurative is often thought of as the opposite of literal, which refers to the strict meaning of words. For example, the literal meaning of it stinks is “it smells bad.” The figurative meaning of it stinks is “it’s terrible.”
Figurative language uses figures of speech, which are expressions like metaphors, similes, idioms, and personification, among many others. You know what special effects are in movies, right? Well, figurative language is like the special effects of words. (By the way, that last sentence was a simile—but more about that later.)
Figurative language is used all the time: in poetry and literature for sure, but also in nonfiction writing and everyday speech—just about everywhere words are used. Using figurative language makes the things we say more expressive and more engaging. That’s because it gives us so many ways to express things that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to if we only used words literally.
Why is figurative language important?
It would be hard to get through a day without using figurative language. We might think about metaphors when we’re writing a story or analyzing a novel, but most of the time we don’t even realize we’re using figures of speech. But we do—a lot, and for good reason. Figurative language gets ideas across in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
Many forms of figurative language connect two separate ideas or things to express a similarity. Others use words in unexpected ways. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Metaphor: The applying of a word or phrase to something that’s not literally related in order to suggest a resemblance, as in This day is a dumpster fire.
- Simile: Like a metaphor, but it spells out the comparison, typically by using the words like or as, as in His arm is like a tree trunk!
- Idiom: An expression whose meaning can’t be understood from the literal meanings of the words that make it up, as in raining cats and dogs.
- Personification: The applying of human qualities to an animal or object, as in My car just screamed in pain.
- Hyperbole: An exaggeration used for emphasis, as in We waited for an eternity.
Some figurative language plays with how certain words or phrases sound. Alliteration is the repetition of sounds at the beginning of the words in a sequence, as in What wonderful words we wizards wield! Sometimes, the sound effect is baked into the word itself. Onomatopoeia is the formation of a word that imitates the sound of the thing it refers to, like how buzz sounds like the sound of a bee buzzing.
These are some of the most commonly used forms of figurative language, but there are many more. And not all forms of figurative language have formal names—there are endless possibilities for using language in creative ways to make it express what you want to express. Figurative language isn’t just for literature class. The more ways we can think up to express our ideas, the better.
Did you know ... ?
One figure of speech with a fun name is a synecdoche. Sometimes, synecdoches use part of something or its material to represent the whole, like when the word steel is used to refer to a sword. They can also use the whole to represent the part, something general to represent something specific, or something specific to represent something general.
What are real-life examples of figurative language?
Figurative language is very common in fictional writing, but it’s used all the time in all types of writing and in everyday conversation.
During National Poetry Month, students can use this interactive, distance learning-suited lesson from @PBSAmernMasters to discover how literary techniques like figurative language, imagery and symbolism contribute to the overall meaning of a poem. https://t.co/9AH2eiU4wg
— PBS Teachers (@pbsteachers) April 9, 2020
throwback to me presenting a big L verse to explain figurative language in my english class
— casi (@cruisecasi) April 15, 2020
What other words are related to figurative language?
Which of the following things is NOT an example of figurative language?
- a metaphor
- a literal statement
Example sentences from the Web for figurative language
Despite the strong language, however, the neither the JPO nor Lockheed could dispute a single fact in either Daily Beast report.
Some of them already are in Germany taking language lessons.
His first language was Russian, then he learned Swedish, but chooses to perform in monosyllabic broken English.The Cult of Yung Lean: ‘I’m Building An Anarchistic Society From the Ground Up’|Marlow Stern|January 4, 2015|DAILY BEAST
We also have a language filled with distaste for the civilian “others.”A Veteran’s View: NYC Cold War Between Cops and City Hall|Matt Gallagher|December 29, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Disagreements will focus on right and wrong, not parsing of legal language.
“Perhaps you do not speak my language,” she said in Urdu, the tongue most frequently heard in Upper India.The Red Year|Louis Tracy
I would ask you to imagine it translated into every language, a common material of understanding throughout all the world.
And all over the world each language would be taught with the same accent and quantities and idioms—a very desirable thing indeed.
But don't go hunting after them, there are still modern Immortals in the darkness of a forgotten language.
Light, the symbol of life's joy, seems to be the first language in which the spirit of beauty speaks to a child.Children's Ways|James Sully