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.
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!