Figurative language

literary technique

Figurative language is when a writer describes something by comparing it with something else. It is writing that goes from the actual meaning of words at face value to get a special meaning.[1] The figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning. For example, consider the sentence, "When she heard the news, she was over the moon and jumped for joy". The meaning is that she was very happy, but not flying above the Moon nor jumping up and down.

Figurative language is a difference in fields of language analysis. Literal language is about words that do not go away from their meaning. Non-literal or figurative language refers to words, and groups of words, that change the normal meanings of the words. A literal usage is the "normal" meanings of the words.[2] It has the same meaning regardless of the context.[3] The intended meaning is the same as the real meaning of the individual words.[4] Figurative use of language is the use of words or phrases in a manner where the literal meaning of the words is not true or does not make sense. It "implies a non-literal meaning which does make sense or that could be true".[5]


  2. Jaszczolt, Katarzyna M.; Turner, Ken (2003-03-01). Meaning through Language Contrast. Volume 2. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 141–. ISBN 978-1-588-11207-1. Retrieved 3 Oct 2014.
  3. Glucksberg, Sam (2001-07-26). Understanding Figurative Language: From Metaphor to Idioms: From Metaphor to Idioms. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511109-5. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  4. Harley, Trevor A. (2001). The Psychology of Language: From Data to Theory. Taylor & Francis. pp. 293–. ISBN 978-0-863-77867-4. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  5. Montgomery, Mar; Durant, Alan; Fabb, Nigel; Tom Furniss, Sara Mills (2007). Ways of Reading: Advanced Reading Skills for Students of English Literature. Taylor & Francis. pp. 117–. ISBN 978-0-415-34633-7. Retrieved 3 October 2014.