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What Is Figurative Language? (with Examples)

What Is Figurative Language (with Examples)

Figurative language is the use of words in an unusual or imaginative manner. Often figurative language involves the use of a metaphor, a simile, personification, hyperbole, idiom, a euphemism, and pun. However, as the term figurative language also covers unusual or imaginative word constructions (and not just word meanings), it also includes alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, and logosglyphs.

Examples of Figurative Language

When most people think of figurative language, similes and metaphors spring to mind. However, the term figurative language covers a wide range of literary techniques. Here are some examples of figurative language in each of the categories:

Metaphor

A metaphor asserts that one thing is something that it literally is not. For example:
  • It is a house of cards.
  • Her eyes were darting torches.
  • Time is money.
  • An icy stare

Simile

A simile likens one thing to another (usually achieved by the use of the word like or as). For example:
  • She is as cute as a kitten.
  • This cake is as dry as a bone.
  • He swims like a torpedo.
  • Ghost-like eyes

Personification

Personification is when non-human objects are given human traits. For example:
  • The leaves danced in the wind.
  • My computer throws a tantrum at least once a day.
  • Autumn's icy touch
  • Creeping time

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is an exaggeration or extravagant statement used for effect. For example:
  • I could eat a scabby horse.
  • They've got truckloads of money.
  • I nearly died of embarrassment.
  • It's a million times better.

Idiom

An idiom is commonly used expression whose meaning does not relate to the literal meaning of its words. For example:
  • I'll be pushing up the daisies.
  • It's a piece of cake.
  • Do not let the cat out of the bag.
  • You've hit the nail on the head.

Euphemism

A euphemism is the use of agreeable or inoffensive words to replace rude or offensive ones. For example:
  • didnít make it = has died
  • between jobs = unemployed
  • exotic dancer = stripper

Pun

A pun is a witticism that plays on the different meanings of a word or two words which sound alike but have different meanings. For example:
  • It's hard to beat a boiled egg.
  • I'm an honest cheetah.
  • Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Alliteration

Alliteration is the repetition of the same initial letter in successive words for effect. For example:
  • Those purple pigs are preposterous.
  • She sells seashells down by the seashore.
  • Smile. Speak. Serve.

Assonance

Assonance is the repetition of the same vowel sound in neighbouring words. For example:
  • Hear, not fear, the wisdom of wizards.
  • We received three emails.
  • Cats bat at yarn balls.

Consonance

Consonance is the repetition of the same consonant sound in neighbouring words (but not at the front Ė that's alliteration). For example:
  • She swung her fist in angst against the beast.
  • The big dog dug a hole.
  • Think tank

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is the use of a word which sounds like what it represents. For example:
  • The rocket whooshed in the sky.
  • Are they sausages I can hear sizzling?
  • The dish clattered against the floor tiles.

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