Figurative language is language that uses words or expressions with a meaning that is different from the literal interpretation. When a writer uses literal language, he or she is simply stating the facts as they are. Figurative language, in comparison, uses exaggerations or alterations to make a particular linguistic point. Figurative language is very common in poetry, but is also used in prose and nonfiction writing as well.
There are many different types of figurative language. For example:
Simile: A simile is a comparison that often uses the words like or as. One example of a simile would be to say, “Jamie runs as fast as the wind.”
Metaphor: A metaphor is a comparison made between things which are essentially not alike. It is similar to a simile, but does not use like or as. One example of a metaphor would be to say, “The computer in our classroom is an old dinosaur.”
Personification: When something that is not human is given human-like qualities, this is known as personification. An example of personification would be to say, “The leaves danced in the wind on the cold October afternoon.”
Hyperbole: Exaggerating, often in a humorous way, to make a particular point is known as hyperbole. One of example of hyperbole would be to say, “My eyes widened at the sight of the mile-high ice cream cones we were having for dessert.”
Onomatopoeia: When you name an action by imitating the sound associated with it, this is known as onomatopoeia. One example of onomatopoeia would be to say, “The bees buzz angrily when their hive is disturbed.”
Idiom: An idiom is an expression used by a particular group of people with a meaning that is only known through common use. One example of an idiom would be to say, “I’m just waiting for him to kick the bucket.” Many idioms that are frequently used are also considered clichés.
Symbolism: Symbolism occurs when a noun which has meaning in itself is used to represent something entirely different. One example of symbolism would be to use an image of the American flag to represent patriotism and a love for one’s country.
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