Figures of speech can be persuasive and impactful. Here are some examples of figurative language that will help you communicate more effectively.
allegory - device of using character and/or story elements symbolically to represent an abstraction in
addition to the literal meaning
alliteration - the repetition of sounds, especially initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words
(eg "she sells sea shells")
allusion - a direct or indirect reference to something which is presumably commonly known, such as an
event, book, myth, place, or work of art
ambiguity - the multiple meanings, either intentional or unintentional, of a word, phrase, sentence, or
analogy - a similarity or comparison between two different things or the relationship between them
antecedent - the word, phrase, or clause referred to by a pronoun
aphorism - a terse statement of known authorship which expresses a general turht or moral principle
apostrophe - a figure of speech that directly addresses an absent or imaginary person or a personified
abstraction, such as liberty or love
atmosphere - the emotional mood created by the entirety of a literary work, established partly by the setting
and partly by the author's choice of objects that are described
clause - a grammatical unit that contains both a subject and a verb
colloquial - the use of slang or informalities in speech or writing
conceit - a fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or surprising analogy between
seemingly dissimilar objects
connotation - the nonliteral, associative meaning of a word; the implied, suggested meaning
denotation - the strict, literal, dictionary definition of a word, devoid of any emotion, attitude, or color
diction - refereing to style, diction refers to the writer's word choices, especially with regard to their
correctness, clearness, or effectiveness
didactic - from the Greek, literally means "teaching"
euphemism - from the Greek for "good speech," a more agreeable or less offensive substitute for a
generally unpleasant word or concept
extended metaphor - a metaphor developed at great length, ocurring frequently in or throughout a work
figurative language - writing or speech that is not intended to carry litera meaning and is usually meant to
be imaginative and vivid
figure of speech - a device used to produce figurative language
generic convntions - refers to traditions for each genre
genre - the major category into which a literary work fits (eg prose, poetry, and drama)
homily - literally "sermon", or any serious talk, speech, or lecture providing moral or spiritual advice
hyperbole - a figure of speech using deliberate exaggeration or overstatement
imagery - the sensory details or figurative language used to describe, arouse emotion, or represent
infer (inference) - to draw a reasonable conclusion from the informaion presented
invective - an emotionally violent, verbal denunciation or attack using strong, abusive language
irony - the contrast between what is stated explicitly and what is really meant
verbal irony - words literally state the opposite of speaker's true meaning
situational irony - events turn out the opposite of what was expected
dramatic irony - facts or events are unknown to a character but known to the reader or audience or
other characters in work
loose sentence - a type of sentence in which the main idea comes first, followed by dependent grammatical
metaphor - a figure of speech using implied comparison of seemingly unlike things or the substitution of
one for the other, suggesting some similarity
metonomy - from the Greek "changed label", the name of one object is substituted for that of another
closely associated with it (eg "the White House" for the President)
mood - grammatically, the verbal units and a speaker's attitude (indicative, subjunctive, imperative);
literarily, the prevailing atmosphere or emotional aura of a word
narrative - the telling of a story or an account of an event or sereis of events
onomatopoeia - natural sounds are imitated in the sounds of words (eg buzz, hiss)
oxymoron - from the Greek for "pointedly foolish," author groups apparently contradictory terms to suggest
paradox - a statement that appears to be self-contradictory or opposed to common sense but upon closer
inspection contains some degree of truth or validity
parallelism - from the Greek for "beside one another," the grammatical or rhetorical framing of words,
phrases, sentences, or paragraphs to give structural similarity
parody - a work that closely imitates the style or content of another with the speific aim of comic effect
pedantic - an adjective that describes words, phrases, or general tone that is overly scholarly, academic, or
periodic sentences - a sentence that presents its central meaning in a main clause at the end
personification - a figure of speech in which the author presents or describes concepts, animasl, or
inanimate objects by endowing them with human attributes or emotions
point of view - the perspective from which a story is told (first person, third person omniscient, or third
person limited omniscient)
predicate adjective - one type of subject complement, an adjective, group of adjectives, or adjective cluase
that follows a linking verb
predicate nominative - another type of subject complement, a noun, group of nouns, or noun clause that
renames the subject
prose - genre including fiction, nonfiction, written in ordinary language
repetition - the duplication, either exact or approximate, of any element of language
rhetoric - from the Greek for "orator," the principles governing the art of writing effectively, eloquently,
rhetorical modes - the variety, conventions, and purposes of the major kinds of writing (exposition explains
and analyzes information; argumentation proves validity of an idea; description re-creates, invents,
or presents a person, place, event or action; narration tells a story or recount an event)
sarcasm - from the Greek for "to tear flesh," involves bitter, caustic language that is meant to hurt or
ridicule someone or something
satire - a work that targets human vices and follies or social institutinos and conventions for reform or
semantics - the branch of linguistics which studies the meaning of words, their historical and psychological
development (etymology), their connotations, and their relation to one another
style - an evaluation of the sum of the choices an author maks in blending diction, syntx, figurative
language, and other literary devices; or, classification of authors to a group and comparion of an
author to similar authors
subject complement - the word or clause that follows a linking verb and complements, or completes, the
subject of the sentence by either renaming it or describing it
subordinate clause - contains a subject and verb (like all clauses) but cannot stand alone; does not express
syllogism - from the Greek for "reckoning together," a deductive system of fromal logic that presents two
premises (first "major," second "minor") that inevitably lead to a sound conclusion (eg All men are
mortal, Socrates is a man, Socrates is mortal)
symbol (symbolism) - anything that represents or stands for something else (natural, conventional, literary)
syntax - the way an author chooses to join words into phrases, clauses, and sentences
theme - the central idea or message of a work, the insight it offers into life
thesis - in expository writing, the thesis statement is the sentence or group of sentences that directly express
the author's opinion, purpose, meaning, or proposition
tone - similar to mood, describes the author's attitude toward his material, the audience, or both
transition - a word or phrase that links different ideas
understatement - the ironic minimalizing of fact, presents something as less significant than it is
wit - intellectually amusing language that surprises and delights
U - unaccented syllable, A - accented syllable
amphimacer - AUA
anapest - UUA
antibacchus - AAU
bacchius - UAA
chouambus - AUUA
dactyl - AUU
iambus - UA
pyrrhic - UU
spondee - UU
trochee - AU
breve - symbol for unstressed syllable
macron - a "-" symbol to divide syllables
Figurative language is language in which figures of speech (such as metaphors, similes, and hyperbole) freely occur.
The words you use in both written and oral communication are a form of expression. The types of language you use often depend on what you are trying to convey. Sometimes, the goal is to be direct and to the point to express exactly what you mean. Other times, the goal is to make the reader think or draw a conclusion.
As a writer, or speaker, it is important to first, know your audience. Understanding your reader or listener is important to decide what type of language you should use to convey your message most effectively. Additionally, it is important to have a clear understanding of the point of your message. Knowing this will help you determine if you should use literal or figurative language. Additionally, it is important to understand the differences between literal and figurative language.
Literal language by definition does not use figures of speech. Instead, literal language uses the actual meanings of words or phrases in their exact sense. Literal language is very straightforward and to the point. Literal language is precise and often tells the reader exactly the point. The reader or listener does not have to extract meaning.
In contrast, figurative language uses different figures of speech to make the content more persuasive or to have a greater impact. Figurative language uses figures of speech such as metaphors, similes or an oxymoron to make the message more meaningful. A writer uses figurative language to create more interesting and often colorful content.
The main difference between literal and figurative language is complexity. What is the literal language definition and examples? Literal language is not complex. Literal language is precise, and expresses exactly what the author or speaker means. Literal language does not use confusing words or does it encourage the reader to think beyond what is being said. Literal language expresses the main point.
On the other hand, figurative language may take interpretation on the part of the reader. This language tends to be more complex and is not always very straightforward. Figurative language often uses symbolism, requiring the reader or listener to think beyond the words that are written. This type of language uses literary devices instead of relying on the actual meaning of words or phrases.
Literal language is often used within the fields of science and research. You might consider using literal language when writing a term paper on the defectiveness of alternative energy solutions. If you were writing a paper in chemistry class, the use of precise, straightforward language would be the best option. Literary language should be used when the goal is to give an explicit explanation. Authors use literal language when they want to get their point across in a direct manner.
Figurative language does have a place, however. Figurative language is often used in poetry or narrative fiction. If you were writing a paper that compares and contrasts medieval female characters, you may want to include some figurative language. Figurative language can also be very helpful in persuasive papers, too. Authors will use figurative language when the goal is to persuade the reader or evoke emotion.
Figurative language can take form in five specific ways:
Understatement or Emphasis
– highlight or diminish on idea Relationships – focus on how things are interrelated Figures of Sound – how the words actually sound Errors – highlighting a mistake Verbal Games – plays on words
If done effectively, figurative language can highlight contrasting ideas and evoke the reader to think in a new way or change a perspective. Figurative language can highlight one area, like an area of weakness, to ultimately highlight another.
In order to accomplish these forms of figurative language, you can incorporate several types of literary devices. Literary devices include simile, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia, oxymoron, hyperbole, allusion, idiom, alliteration, irony, pun and sarcasm. You can find figurative and literal language worksheets as PDF documents online.
We use figurative language every day — whether we're talking with our friends or we're talking with our colleagues and bosses. In fact, when used correctly and wisely, figurative language can be a beneficial communication skill in the workplace.
The difference between literal and figurative language is that literal language should be taken at face value, whereas figurative language often has a different meaning or intentions beyond the ways in which the word or phrase is typically used.
"Figurative language refers to the color we use to amplify our writing," according to Your Dictionary. "It takes an ordinary statement and dresses it up in an evocative frock. It gently alludes to something without directly stating it. Figurative language is a way to engage your readers, ushering them through your writing with a more creative tone."
Essentially, figurative language can help to convey, persuade, convince and impact someone when they receive your verbal or written message. That said, however, it should still be used sparingly. A speech or paragraph that is riddled with figurative language can be tough to understand and, frankly, exhausting to follow.
There are debates regarding just how many types of figurative language there are out there, and as we come up with evermore catchphrases and colloquialisms, figurative languages expand. However, these are some staple, oft-used examples of figurative language in our everyday discourse.
A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action, though it is not literally applicable.
Examples: "Time is a thief." Time is not literally a thief, but it does often seem to disappear. Therefore, though time itself cannot literally be a thief, the figure of speech implies that it's like a thief in that it seems to disappear quickly before our eyes. Another example is "This weekend was a rollercoaster." The weekend wasn't actually a rollercoaster, but it felt as chaotic as a rollercoaster can make one feel.
A simile is a figure of speech in which one thing is used in comparison with another thing of a different kind. The comparison is intended to make a description more emphatic or vivid for effective communication.
Examples: "She's as sly like a fox." A fox is a sly animal and, therefore, someone who is sly could be sly like a fox. Another example is "He's as salty as a pretzel." This means that someone is agitated because "salty" is a colloquialism for being agitated, and pretzels are also salty.
A hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claim that is not meant to be taken literally.
Examples: "Her smile was a mile wide." While someone cannot actually have a mile-wide smile, the figure of speech simply means that they have a very big smile. Another example is that someone's feet are "as big as clown's feet." No one really has feet as big as a clown's feet, but someone with big feet might be described this way.
An idiom is a group of words that, when put together, mean something not deducible from meanings of the individual words.
Examples: "It's raining cats and dogs out there." It can't literally rain cats and dogs, but the meaning implies that it's raining heavily. An idiom takes on a meaning of its own. Another example is when someone "rubs you the wrong way." They don't physically rub you when they rub you the wrong way; rather, they bother or irritate you perhaps because they're a catty coworker or an unreliable teammate.
A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part of a phrase is used to represent the whole phrase or vice versa.
Examples: "The president of America..." America is often used for short instead of the United States of America. "The Giants" is short for the "The New York Giants," and the team is often referred to that way.
Personification is when an attribution of a personal nature or human characteristic is used to describe something nonhuman.
Examples: "The wind whistled in the night." The wind does not actually whistle like a human can. Instead, the wind made noise that sounded like a whistle. Another example is "a spitting sprinkler." A sprinkler doesn't actually spit, but it does spew water.
An allusion is an expression that intends to call something to mind without explicitly mentioning it. In other words, it's an indirect or passing reference.
Example: "I was worried my nose would grow like Pinocchio's." The person using this figure of speech had lied, and they are referring to the story of Pinnochio from The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, in which Pinnochio's nose grew each time he told a lie. They don't directly mention the story but they indirectly reference it. Another example of an allusion is to call someone "a Scrooge." Scrooge is a reference to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two terms that are apparently contradictory appear in conjunction. In short: It's a contradiction of terms used to reveal a paradox.
Examples: "The deafening silence was spooky." Silence cannot be deafening — the two words have very different literal meanings. It just means that the silence was too much to handle like deafening music might be — and being in one's own thoughts in a silent room can feel deafening. Another example is "only choice," because if something is a "choice," it cannot be the "only" option.
A pun, also called paronomasia, is a joke (in the form of wordplay) that exploits the different possible meanings of a word, or of similar-sounding words. (But be careful: Office humor can be tricky.)
Examples: "The woman had a photographic memory; she just never developed it." The pun here is that you can't, of course, develop a photographic memory like you can develop photos. It's mean to be humorous and play on the different meanings. Another example of how puns can use similar-sounding words is: "The writer was successful, probably because she had a lot of comma sense." "Comma," here takes the place of "common" because they sound similar. Again, this is used for relevant and humorous effect.
Onomatopoeia is a word (sometimes made up) that is associated with a sound. The word phonetically imitates, resembles or suggests the sound that it describes.
Examples: "The bees were buzzing around the flowers." Bees make a buzzing sound, and thus they were buzzing. Other onomatopoeic words include swish, boom, wack, beep, etc.
Alliteration is a stylistic figure of speech identified by the repeated sound of the first or second letter in a string of words, or by the repetition of the same letter sounds in stressed syllables of a string of words.
Examples: "She sells seashells down by the seashore." The "se" and "she" sounds are repeated in this series of words. Another example is "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers."
Figurative language is used in the workplace every day as a professional communication skill. Of course, figures of speech may vary depending on who you're speaking to or what you're speaking about, and when you need to state the facts and get to the point, you shouldn't litter your speech, presentation, review, etc. with figurative language. But figurative language can be used at work in a variety of ways to help make and drive a point— and it should be used in certain circumstances to enhance your speaking or writing.
When you're giving presentations, you might use phrases like "We've had a lot of success this year, and here's the icing on the cake: We're opening a new office." This metaphor refers to the good news the add to all the good news. You might also tell your audience that, thanks to the new office, "Hopeis on the horizon for all of you wishing you had more natural light in the office." Maybe you show them a slide with the new floorplan and explain that the new office is "as big as Alaska."
When you're explaining tasks, using figurative language can be help the person to whom you're explaining the task better understand. For example, if you're asking them to complete the slideshow for an upcoming presentation carefully but quickly, you might tell them to "make haste slowly," which is an oxymoron that means that it's urgent but it needs to still be done well. You might also tell them that you have a relationship "as old as the hills" with the person who will be coming in to view this presentation, so you want to impress them. This means that you have a long-standing relationship with this person and you'd like to maintain that.
When you're proposing an idea, figurative language can be an effective way of communicating it. You might say that your new idea is "as slick as a fox" because you're introducing a new social media growth strategy that targets people's interests "like a mind reader." You might also compare your idea with similes to make it easier to understand and more appealing. You might say that your new social media growth strategy is based on shared interests, so it promises results, unlike your former strategy of inviting random people to like your page that was "went over like a lead balloon." This means that the original idea didn't work, but that you know yours will. You might also explain that you've been watching your social media numbers slowly increase like "watching grass grow" (read: super slowly) but that you know your new plan is "as solid as the ground we stand on" (read: legitimate). You might also use an idiom like "I don't want to jump the gun here but I have an idea."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
denotation - the strict, literal, dictionary definition of a word, devoid of any emotion , attitude, figure of speech - a device used to produce figurative language.
Figurative language uses figures of speech to be more effective, persuasive, and impactful.
Figures of speech such as metaphors, similes, and allusions go beyond the literal meanings of the words to give readers new insights. On the other hand, alliterations, imageries, or onomatopoeias are figurative devices that appeal to the senses of the readers.
Figurative language can appear in multiple forms with the use of different literary and rhetorical devices. According to Merriam Webster’s Encyclopedia, the definition of figurative language has five different forms:
The term figurative language covers a wide range of literary devices and techniques, a few of which include:
Poised between going on and back, pulled
Both ways taut like a tight-rope walker,
Now bouncing tiptoe like a dropped ball,
Or a kid skipping rope, come on, come on! …
Taunts them, hovers like an ecstatic bird,
He’s only flirting, crowd him, crowd him,
The similes and word choice of this poem makes it a masterpiece. The poet use similes between the lines to depict his scattered thoughts before taking action, and makes comparison as, “like a tight-rope,” “like a dropped ball,” and “hovers like an ecstatic bird.”
But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
The caged bird sings with a fearful trill …
And his tune is heard on the distant hill for
The caged bird sings of freedom.
The entire poem is rich with metaphor as a bird in a cage represents a group of people who are oppressed and cannot get freedom. The cage represents physical barriers, fear, addiction, or society; while the song of the bird represents true self yearning for something greater in life.
She sweeps with many-colored Brooms
And leaves the Shreds behind
Oh Housewife in the Evening West
Come back, and dust the Pond!
Dickinson uses personification of a housewife to describe the sunset in the very first line of this poem. She is using a sweeping housewife who does her daily work, likewise the rays of the setting sun sweep away beneath the horizon.
Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary;
rare and radiant maiden;
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain …
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
Poe uses alliteration by repeating the /w/ sound to emphasize the weariness of the narrator, and then /r/ and /s/ sounds in the second and third lines respectively. In the last two lines, the /d/ sound highlights the narrator’s hopelessness.
Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from old and young !
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
In these lines, the albatross symbolizes a big mistake, or a burden of sin, just like the cross on which Christ was crucified. Therefore, all people on the ship agreed to slay that bird.
She ran down the street, the green knee socks making her legs look like wild dandelion of stems that had somehow lost their heads. The weight of her remark stunned us.
This excerpt uses different devices that make language figurative. There is a good use of simile, “legs look like wild dandelion;” and personification, “lost their heads;” and use of consonance in “stunned us,” where the /s/ is a consonant sound.
“The dark lantern of world sadness has cast its shadow upon the land.
We stumble into our misery on leaden feet.”
In just these two lines, Maya Angelou has used a metaphor of the dark lantern, consonance of the /s/ sounds, and personification of misery.
“I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”
This prince of the Harlem Renaissance has beautifully used a different type of consonance with the /l/ sound and a simile of “my soul.”
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy W. H. Auden life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
W. H. Auden has used a personification of the “dreadful martyrdom,” and consonances of “some untidy spot,” with the /s/ sound, and “dogs go on with their doggy life,” with the /d/ and /g/ sounds.
The primary function of figurative language is to force readers to imagine what a writer wants to express. Figurative language is not meant to convey literal meanings, and often it compares one concept with another in order to make the first concept easier to understand. However, it links the two ideas or concepts with the goal of influencing the audience to understand the link, even if it does not exist.
Poets and prose writers use this technique to bring out emotions and help their readers form images in their minds. Thus, figurative language is a useful way of conveying an idea that readers cannot understand otherwise, due to its complex and abstract nature. In addition, it helps in analyzing a literary text.
Vivid definition, strikingly bright or intense, as color, light, etc. Politicians, in particular, are well known for making use of equivocal language as a way of hiding.