Figurative Language – Definition and Examples
  • 3-minute read
  • 13th April 2023

Figurative Language – Definition and Examples

In this article, you’ll learn about figurative language: what it is, how to use it, and lots of examples to inspire your everyday speech and descriptive writing.

What is Figurative Language?

Figurative language is language that uses words or expressions with a meaning that is different from the literal interpretation. It is often used to create imagery, evoke emotion, or emphasize a point in a way that literal language cannot. Think of it as painting a picture with words in the minds of your audience – for example, “She was as light as a feather while dancing.”

5 Types of Figurative Language

Below, we’ll look at five types of figurative language – metaphor, idiom, simile, hyperbole, and personification – that you can use in an essay, poem, speech, or conversation.


A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two things by stating that one thing is another, without using “like” or “as.” Metaphors are used to create imagery, evoke emotions, and help readers or listeners to understand an idea or concept in a new and interesting way.

Here are some examples of metaphors:

Life is a journey. This compares life to a journey, suggesting that life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and unexpected obstacles.

He’s a shining star. This compares a person to a shining star, suggesting that the person is talented, successful, or well-known.

Love is a rose. This compares love to a rose, suggesting that love is beautiful but can also be thorny and painful.

Her voice is music to my ears. This compares a person’s voice to music, suggesting that the sound is pleasing, comforting, and enjoyable.

Time is money. This compares time to money, suggesting that time is valuable and should be used wisely.


An idiom is a phrase or expression that has a figurative meaning that is different from the literal meaning of the words. Idioms are often used in informal or conversational language to add color or humor.

Here are some examples of idioms:

Break a leg. This means to wish someone good luck, especially before a performance or presentation.

Cost an arm and a leg. This means something is very expensive, and it suggests that the cost is so high that it would be comparable to losing a limb.

Hit the nail on the head. This means to be exactly right or to make an accurate assessment of a situation or problem.

Let the cat out of the bag. This means to reveal a secret or to disclose information that was supposed to be kept confidential.

Bite the bullet. This means to endure a difficult or unpleasant situation, often with courage or determination.

If you want to include idioms in your everyday speech or writing, make sure you fully understand the figurative meaning before using them. If used incorrectly, they can cause confusion for your audience.


A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things using “like” or “as.” They are a great writing technique to create vivid imagery and a memorable comparison.

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Here are some examples of similes:

She runs like a cheetah. This compares a person’s running speed to that of a cheetah, emphasizing how fast and graceful she is.

He’s as sly as a fox. This compares a person’s behavior or character to that of a fox, suggesting that he is clever and cunning.

She sings like an angel. This compares a person’s singing voice to that of an angel, emphasizing how beautiful and pure her voice is.

He’s as strong as an ox. This compares a person’s physical strength to that of an ox, emphasizing how powerful he is.

The clouds were like cotton candy. This compares the appearance of clouds to that of cotton candy, emphasizing their light, fluffy texture.


Hyperbole is a figure of speech that involves exaggeration for emphasis or effect. It is mostly used to emphasize a point in a funny or memorable way. Hyperbole is great to use in everyday language or writing, but it’s important to use it in moderation – otherwise, it can come across as insincere or unbelievable.

Here are some examples of hyperbole:

I’m so hungry I could eat a horse. This exaggerates the speaker’s hunger, emphasizing how hungry they are.

I’ve told you a million times: This exaggerates the number of times the speaker has said something, emphasizing the frustration of the speaker.

His backpack weighs a ton: This exaggerates the weight of the backpack, emphasizing how heavy it is.

I’m so tired I could sleep for a week: This exaggerates the speaker’s fatigue, emphasizing how exhausted they are.

She’s as old as the hills: This exaggerates a person’s age, emphasizing how old they are.


Personification is a figure of speech in which an inanimate object or animal is given human-like qualities or characteristics. This technique is mostly used in poetry or descriptive writing to create vivid imagery.

Here are some examples of personification:

The wind whispered through the trees. This gives the wind the human quality of whispering, emphasizing how quiet and gentle it is.

The sun smiled down on us. This gives the sun the human quality of smiling, emphasizing how warm and pleasant it is outside.

The flowers danced in the breeze. This gives the flowers the human quality of dancing, emphasizing how light and joyful they appear in the wind.

The car groaned as it struggled up the hill. This gives the car the human quality of groaning, emphasizing how hard it is working to move up the hill.

The storm raged on throughout the night. This gives the storm the human quality of raging, emphasizing how powerful and intense it is.


Figurative language is a great addition to your everyday speech and is frequently used in literature and poetry. It can add depth and richness to language, making it more interesting and expressive. However, it can also be confusing if the reader or listener does not understand the intended meaning of the figurative language. Therefore, it is important to have a basic understanding of figurative language in order to fully appreciate and understand written and spoken communication.

Interested in learning more about how use descriptive language and vivid imagery? Check out our Writing Tips blog to learn more.

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