Figurative Language


Figurative language helps to make a literary piece more engaging by providing an imaginary effect to the writing. So, the reader gets more scope to think beyond the literal meaning. A detailed discussion will help you to understand figurative language.

What is Figurative Language?

A figurative language indicates words or word phrases that do not carry literal meaning. It makes written or spoken communication more engaging with an artistic touch. The ‘word’ or ‘word phrase’ conveys an exaggerated meaning that it does not exhibit, and it creates an impact on the reader.


The mother said that her child was the sunshine of her life.

Here in the sentence, 'sunshine' is figurative language. The child that the mother refers to was everything to her. And that is why she called the child 'sunshine', But if you think about the exact meaning of the word 'sunshine', then the sentence does not carry any purposeful meaning.

May I have dinner now? I am starving!

In the above example, 'I am starving' is an exaggerated meaning of 'being hungry'. The word does not mean 'starving' but states 'being hungry' and so cannot wait to have food.

We can clearly understand from the above examples that reading or listening to figurative language allows us to imagine the meaning. And it makes the sentences sound more interesting to the listener or reader.

Types of Figurative Language

Here we will describe the primary types of figurative languages. These types are used in the English language to express various emotions or expressions, and these attributes change the writing style and make the narrative engaging.


Personification is a type of figurative language that provides attributes of living things to non-living things. And personification is found in various works in English literature. We use personification to express the intensity of our thoughts. This figurative language provides attributes of humans to non-living things so that the sentence sounds more lively to the reader.


I felt scared in the middle of the ferocious waves.

In the sentence, 'ferocious waves' is an example of personification. We know 'waves' are inanimate things. But to create the image of the dangerous waves, we can say 'ferocious waves'. Here the waves are not typical. And an indication of danger is there in the sentence.

The lily flower is dancing in the wind.

In the sentence, we are personifying 'lily flower', mentioning 'dancing in the wind'. A flower cannot dance but can move with the blow of the wind. But the reader gets a visual and interesting idea of the whole narrative with such personification.


Similes are phrases that include 'like' or 'as' to bring the comparison between two different types of words. And in such a way, it indicates similar attributes between those two words.


He has been as busy as a bee for the last two months.

In the sentence, we compare 'he' (a person) to 'a bee' for being very busy. The bees make the beehive fast and stay active for that. So, to show a similar attribute, we can compare anyone saying 'as busy as a bee'.

The man in the crowd is as brave as a lion, fighting against all odds to get justice.

In the sentence, 'the man' is as brave 'as a lion'. We know the lion is a fearless animal. And if we notice this courageous characteristic in any human, we can compare such bravery with a smile.


Metaphor indicates a comparison between two things (living or non-living things) without using 'like' or 'as'. And this is the difference between metaphor and simile.


He is a couch potato who spends all day eating and binge-watching TV shows.

In the sentence, 'he' is a 'lazy person'. His laziness is compared to a couch potato, which does not mean a literal 'potato on the couch'!


Hyperbole is a way to express exaggerated thoughts to intend emotion and intensity of the meaning. Hyperbole expresses things in such a way that you cannot frame a literal meaning from it. It forces the reader's mind to imagine an exaggerated meaning.


He has a million things to do today.

In the sentence, 'he' has many things to do, and it is expressed with 'million' things.

I have watched this TV show a hundred times.

Here, 'a hundred times' means many times, and it does not indicate the exact hundred times.


An allusion is a literary device to refer to a place, event, thing or even any literary work. It is presumed that the reader already knows the reference; otherwise, the meaning cannot be adequately understood.


The allure reminds me of Pandora's box.

In the sentence, 'Pandora's box is the allusion. The 'allure' is similar to the consequences of 'Pandora's box, and that is why it is referred to as Pandora's box. We know that according to Greek mythology, Pandora was the woman with a mysterious box. She opened it out of eagerness to learn what was inside. But all the evil things inside the box came to the earth for her mistake.

Purpose and Use of Figurative Language

The purpose of figurative language is to make the writing more attractive to the readers. It helps to connect the thoughts of the writer with the reader in an artistic way. The use of figurative language in the English language is versatile. It allows the writer to use different writing styles. It intends emotion, sarcasm, exaggeration and various tones to the writing piece. But overuse of figurative language ruins its flavour and makes the meaning more complicated to understand.


The use of figurative language can change the writing style. It turns a boring writing piece into an interesting one. Only using it sparingly does the job. So, you must be careful when writing with figurative language. The different types of figurative language allow the reader to get a taste of different writing styles.


Q1. What do you mean by 'figurative language'?

Ans. Figurative language does not express the literal meaning but shows exaggerated expression to indicate artistic style to the writing.

Q2. What is the purpose of using simile?

Ans. Simile sets comparison between two things using 'as' or 'like'.

Q3. Why do we use figurative language?

Ans. We use figurative language to write anything more interestingly and creatively.

Q4. What is the use of personification in a sentence?

Ans. Personification is a figurative language that contributes the characteristics of humans to non-living things. It helps to make the writing piece more lively and communicative in such a way.

Updated on: 26-Apr-2023


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