Six Types of Figurative Language

Literal language means only what it says, typically according to dictionary meaning. On the other hand, figurative language adds an extra dimension by expressing meaning beyond the actual words. Devices of figurative language are called figures of speech, and play a special role in the written word, especially poetry. However, many common types of figurative language also appear in everyday speech.

  1. Making Implicit Comparisons

    • A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two things and shows their similarities without using any specific comparison word, such as "like" or "as." For example, "Aunt Doris is the anchor in this family," doesn't literally mean that Aunt Doris keeps a boat in the port from blowing out to sea, but that she's a source of stability. Many metaphors have come into everyday language as idiomatic expressions, such as "My new raise was the icing on the cake."

    Using Comparison Words

    • When writers and speakers use words such as "like," "as," or "similar to" to make a comparison, the figure of speech is a simile. An example using "like" as the comparison word is "He's like a pit bull. Once he gets hold of something, he never lets go." "As" is frequently used in similes with adjectives, for instance, "She was as red as a beet." Similar to metaphors, many similes have become tried-and-true idioms in daily conversation.

    Stretching the Truth

    • The figure of speech that makes a gross exaggeration is called hyperbole. Hyperbole serves to express strong emotions or make a statement more emphatic. For example, "I died a thousand deaths" or "She was so frightened she jumped out of her skin." These statements are so extreme that no listener could take them at face value.

    Minimizing the Facts

    • When an author or speaker says less than she actually means, she uses understatement, the opposite of hyperbole. For example, "Last week wasn't my best week. My car was stolen and I got fired." Understatement often adds humor. In this case, it adds comic relief by making light of a situation that's not normally funny.

    Making Things Come Alive

    • Personification is giving the attributes of human beings to something that's not alive. Because this figure of speech adds vividness to descriptions, it's often used in poetry. "The sky wept great falling tears" is an example of personification, used to describe rain. Personification can also make an everyday object come alive. For example, "The doorbell sang out loudly when I was still asleep in bed." In both of these examples, the personification comes through the verb.

    Playing With Sounds

    • Some figures of speech use the sounds of language for special effects. In onomatopoeia, the sound of the word is the same as the meaning. For example, "We heard the buzz of the saw." Animal sounds are common examples, such as "The cows mooed in their stalls." Another sound device is alliteration, the repetition of consonants. The repeated sounds are usually, but not always, the first sounds of each word. For example, "The boat sails swiftly in the sun." Alliteration adds musical interest and emphasizes the words with the repeated sound.

Related Searches

References

  • Photo Credit TongRo Images/TongRo Images/Getty Images

You May Also Like

  • Types of Symbolism & Figurative Language

    Symbolism and figurative language provide a depth to writing that reliance on straightforward expression cannot. These types of literary devices allow the...

  • Different Types of Figurative Language

    Figurative language refers to words or phrases that do not have the same meaning as their literal meaning. Authors use a variety...

  • Types of Figurative Language in Poetry

    "Men live like bears with furniture," quips comedian Rita Rudner. Rudner's claim is an example of figurative language -- language that departs...

  • Types of Language Development

    An understanding of language development helps parents and teachers recognize when children are developing language skills normally and when they are not....

  • Types of Computer Languages

    Computer language or programming language is a coded syntax used by computer programmers to communicate with a computer. It is the only...

  • Types of Descriptive or Figurative Language

    When writing descriptions, two types of descriptive words -- adjectives and adverbs -- can be used to make the description more specific....

  • Kinds of Figures of Speech

    Bryan Nov 16, 2011. ... Figurative Speech Types. Figurative language utilizes figures of speech to convey meaning to words other than their...

  • Forms of Figurative Language

    Types of Symbolism & Figurative Language. Symbolism and figurative language provide a depth to writing that reliance on straightforward expression cannot.

  • List of Five Types of Figures of Speech

    Unlike literal language, which states exactly what it means, figurative language engages the imagination through indirection. Figures of speech compare concepts to...

  • The Definition of Figurative Language

    Imagery is another type of figurative language that is directly linked to the senses, and uses description to appeal to our senses.

Related Ads

Watch Video

The Truth Behind Common Misconceptions