Figurative Language

Figurative Language Video

Hey guys! Welcome to this Mometrix video over figurative language.

Figurative language is just any language that employs phrases or words that have a different meaning than they would if they were interpreted literally. This is in direct contrast to literal language, where someone says exactly what they mean. For example, when someone looks at an outdoor thermometer that reads 96 degrees and they say, “It is 96 degrees Fahrenheit outside.” If they were using figurative language they might say, “It’s a million degrees outside!” It’s pretty obvious that it’s not a million degrees outside, but the point that they are trying to get across is that it’s uncomfortably hot.

Figurative language typically exaggerates what is literal in order to convey a point.

Figurative Language Examples

There are several different kinds of figurative language; such as alliteration, assonance, idiom, onomatopoeia, synecdoche, metonymy, cliche, and so on.

In this video, however, we will be looking at the five main types of figurative language: simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification, and symbolism.


A simile uses like or as to directly compare two different things. Now, you may have heard it said that a simile is comparing two things that are unalike; but that can be confusing, because often a simile is used directly to show how two different things are specifically alike. So, that is why I use the word different.

Here are some examples of similes:

We all, like sheep, do things that we should not.

She is as tough as nails.

She was as fast as a cheetah.

He was like a sloth in the mornings.



A metaphor is actually kind of similar to a simile, which would make sense seeing as how they are both figurative language. Even more than that, they are similar, because they compare two different things. However, the way that these two things are compared is where we find our distinguishing factor. A simile uses like or as to compare two different things, but a metaphor compares them in a more absolute way.

Here are some examples of a metaphor:

He is a dog.

He is a gem.

Bobby Jo is a chicken.

He wanted to just sweep his problems under the rug.



A hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration of facts in order to stress the significance of a point. The example we looked at earlier, “It’s a million degrees outside!” is a good illustration.

Here are some other examples of hyperbole:

It was so cold the polar bears wore blankets.

He so desperately wants to make his presence known that he never stops making noise.

I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!


Personification is the use of words that imply human qualities to describe something that is not human. For example:

Every time the wind blew the tree would dance.

The sky is crying.

Time shows no partiality.

My microwave always screams at me when it’s finished heating.



Symbolism is typically when some object is used to represent a deeper meaning. For example, a dove is a classic symbol for peace. Now, symbolism can be a little more abstract and has many different forms. Here’s what I mean: it’s possible that something could be symbolism, but it could also be a metaphor. For example, “life is a roller coaster.” The roller coaster symbolizes that in life you will have ups (times of happiness) and downs (times of sadness).

Now, let’s look at some general examples of symbolism:

He became fearful after the black cat crossed his path.
(The black cat crossing someone’s path symbolizes very bad luck, according to an old omen)

The King wore a purple robe during the ceremony.
(The color purple is symbolic for royalty)

After a rough day she desperately anticipated the sunrise.
(The sun rising is symbolic of a new day, and a chance to start over)


Figurative language can be a really useful tool to add depth to your writing. So, I hope that this video helped you to better understand, and sets you up to successfully apply it to your own writing.

See you guys next time!

Frequently Asked Questions


What is figurative language?


Figurative language is a way for authors to express themselves without using strict/realistic meanings of words. In other words, stretching the actual meaning of words in order to communicate ideas and emotions in a creative and more accessible way is called figurative language. For example, when someone uses the phrase “butterflies in my stomach,” they are not meaning that there are literal butterflies in their stomach. They are stretching the words outside of their literal meaning to illustrate the nervous/anxious feeling in their stomach.


What are the types of figurative language?


There are generally considered to be five main types of figurative language: simile, metaphor, hyperbole, allusion, and personification.

  1. A simile is a type of figurative language that compares two things using the words like or as. Here are a few examples:

    “She is as busy as a bee.”
    “This room is about as big as a breadbox.”
    “Their eyes sparkled like diamonds.”
    “Mark and Will were fighting like cats and dogs.”

  2. A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes one thing as being another thing in literal terms in order to better explain a characteristic or idea. Take a look at this example:

    “Tina’s eyes were stars twinkling in the night.”

    Tina’s eyes are not literally stars. The author uses the metaphor of stars to imply that Tina’s eyes were twinkling in a way similar to stars.

  3. A hyperbole is simply an exaggeration that is used to add emphasis to a text. The exaggeration is usually extreme and unrealistic. Here are a few examples:

    “The quiz today had a million math questions on it.”
    “My backpack weighs a ton.”
    “My feet are colder than the Arctic Circle.”

  4. An allusion is an indirect or implied reference to something that the reader is assumed to already be familiar with. Take a look at this example:

    “At that moment, she felt as though she had a golden ticket.”

    In this case, the author is making an indirect reference to Roald Dahl’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

  5. Personification is a type of figurative language an author uses to give human characteristics to something nonhuman. For instance, instead of saying “My alarm clock woke me up this morning,” you could give the alarm clock the human characteristic of yelling: “My alarm clock yelled at me to get out of bed this morning.” Here’s a slightly more complex example of personification:

    “The wind howled as lightning danced across the sky.”


Why do authors use figurative language?


Authors can use figurative language to communicate an abstract idea that is often difficult to explain or a complex concept to understand. Whether it be personification, hyperbole, or metaphor, figurative language can enhance the reader’s experience by helping visualize mental images of the story.


Is imagery figurative language?


Not quite. Figurative language is the use of words beyond their strict/realistic meaning. Imagery is the use of figurative language to represent things in a way that appeals to the senses. Take a look at this example:

“My heart was beating like a drum.”

In this sentence, a simile is used as a piece of figurative language to liken the heart to a drum. This is an example of imagery, as it appeals to our sense of sound.


Is irony figurative language?


Yes, irony is used often in figurative language. Irony is defined as a contrasting idea between reality and expectations of reality, and it can be both tragic and humorous.


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: October 13, 2023