Figurative Language | Definition, Types and Interesting Examples

We use words every day to describe places, people, or situations, and although we use various different words and phrases to convey our meanings, there is nothing quite so descriptive or imaginative as figurative language.

Figurative Language

What Is Figurative Language?

Words and phrases that go further than their literal meaning in order to explain something or to convey the point that the speaker or writer is trying to make are known as figurative language and it is often used for a particularly dramatic effect. Figurative language is often used in stories to make them more interesting and dramatic for the reader.

Types of Figurative Language

There are a number of different types of figurative language and they are all used differently. However, there are five main types and they are:


Similies frequently use the words “like” and “as” and are used to compare two things that you wouldn’t usually associate together.

For example –

  • Tom was as strong as an ox.
  • Fear clawed at her like a savage beast.
  • Night fell like a dark curtain, shrouding the valley in darkness while the villagers scurried like ants back into their houses.
  • She sang like an angel.
  • His hands were as cold as ice.


Metaphors are easily confused with similes as on the surface they appear to do the same thing and compare two things that are not usually alike. However, the main difference between the two is that a metaphor doesn’t use the words “like” or “as”, but makes a direct connection between the two things.

For example –

  • He had a heart of stone.
  • Sally was drowning in a sea of grief after her grandmother died.
  • The trees were monsters that leaped out of the mist.
  • The cold water pierced his skin as he gasped for breath.


A hyperbole is a phrase that is often an exaggeration that is used to emphasize the point the speaker is making. The word “hyperbole” actually originates from the Greek word for “excess”. Hyperbole is usually so exaggerated that there is never any fear of the listener or reader actually believing that it is true, but it is used as an emphasis and, particularly in writing, to add a creative flair.

For example –

  • I have a million jobs to do today.
  • This journey is taking forever.
  • My blisters are killing me.
  • That dress is to die for.


Personification is when words are used to give human characteristics to something that would not usually have them and it is used as a way to aid the reader’s imagination and make writing more interesting.

For example –

  • The sun greeted Sally when she first opened her eyes in the morning.
  • The shopping bags groaned under the weight of all the delicious food he had just bought.
  • The sea fretted and tossed fitfully.
  • Sunbeams danced across the room.


Onomatopoeia is words or a phrase that imitates the sound that is normally associated with or is similar to the object that is being described. It is used to help the reader to imagine what is being described and to give the writing life and color.

For example –

  • The fire hissed and crackled.
  • The clock tick-tocked steadily.
  • Tom listened to the constant pitter-patter of raindrops on the window.
  • The leaves crunched under Sally’s feet.

Figurative Language | Infographic

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