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What is Figurative Language?

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What is Figurative Language?
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Basics on the topic What is Figurative Language?

Content

Ari and Zayd are on a quest to set Hewie free! In order to complete the quest, they have to define figurative language by finding the literal meaning of the different figurative language at each stop. Let’s help them by identifying figurative language in a sentence and decoding the literal meaning in all the examples of figurative language!

What is Figurative Language?

What is the definition of figurative language? Figurative language is a word or phrase that does not have the exact meaning of the words written. When reading figurative language, it is important to think, “what is the meaning of figurative language?”. This is because figurative language has non-literal meaning because it is often too silly or unrealistic to happen in real life.

Now that we know the figurative language definition, the next section will talk about the purpose of figurative language.

Why do Authors use Figurative Language?

So, why do writers use figurative language? It is used for dramatic effect or to exaggerate something to make a point. Why is figurative language important? Figurative language can make text more interesting. How can figurative language improve your writing? It can help keep the reader interested in your text and also give a better visual description of what’s happening in the text.

You may be wondering exactly when is figurative language used. The next section will discuss where can figurative language be used.

Where is Figurative Language Used?

Where do we use figurative language? There is a lot of figurative language in literature, but can figurative language used in spoken language? Yes, in fact figurative language examples are seen everywhere language is used! You may also see figurative language in songs and figurative language in a story!

How can figurative language affect the meaning of a text? All figurative language can change an ordinary sentence or description into extraordinary events, enhance emotion, and also help the reader recognize a literary theme. Figurative language meaning can have a huge impact.

In the next section we will look at what figurative language can do by seeing an example of figurative language.

What are Some Examples of Figurative Language?

In this example you will see how can figurative language enhance meaning. Let’s take a look:

Ari-is-as-cute-as-a-button-rabbit-with-button-face-figurative-language.svg

This figurative language example explains that the character Ari, is as cute as a button. What is the literal or actual meaning of figurative language used here? We know that this is a non-literal statement because buttons are not actually cute, they are just buttons. What does figurative language mean: 'Ari is as cute as a button'? It means that Ari is very cute or adorable!

Ari-is-as-cute-as-a-button-rabbit-with-cute-face-figurative-language.svg

Let’s look at another example to try and determine what is the meaning of figurative language.

Dont-touch-the-pizza-its-lava-pizza-in-box-that-is-lava-figurative-language.svg

his figurative language example says to not touch the pizza, because it’s lava. What is the literal or actual meaning of figurative language used here? We know that this is a non-literal statement because we know that pizza is not made of molten rock, but we do know that lava is very hot. What does figurative language mean: 'Don’t touch the pizza; it’s lava'? It means that the pizza is very hot!

Dont-touch-the-pizza-its-lava-pizza-in-box-figurative-language.svg

Now that we know what is figurative language with examples, the last section still summarize.

What's Figurative Language Summary

After looking at figurative language meaning and examples, we know that figurative language is a word or phrase that does not have the exact meaning of the words written. All figurative language can change an ordinary sentence or description into extraordinary events, enhance emotion, and also help the reader recognize a literary theme. Figurative language meaning can have a huge impact.

Want to some more figurative language practice? In this video you can find figurative language definition and examples of figurative language. Also, on this website there is worksheets along with other activities, and exercises.

Transcript What is Figurative Language?

Oh, what do we have here? It's a map to send Ari and Zayd on a quest to set Hewie free! In order to complete the quest, they have to determine the literal meaning of the figurative language at each stop. Let's help Ari and Zayd by answering... "What is figurative language?" Figurative language, also known as a figure of speech, is a word or phrase that does not have the exact meaning of the words written. As the reader, your job is to determine what the expression actually, or literally means... so you understand what the author is trying to say. It is used for dramatic effect or to exaggerate something to make a point, (...) which can make text more interesting. Figurative language has non-literal meaning because it is often too silly or unrealistic to happen in real life. In the meadow, Ari and Zayd find the phrase... "Ari is as cute as a button." The first step is to ask yourself, do the words mean exactly what they say? (...) [silly tone, like of course not! haha] No, they do not mean Ari looks like a button (...) that wouldn't make any sense! We know that this is a NON-LITERAL statement because buttons are not actually cute, they are just buttons. The second step is to determine the LITERAL, or actual, meaning of the phrase. What is the literal meaning of, 'Ari is as cute as a button'? (...) It means that ARI is very cute or adorable! Next, they trudge up the Mountain and arrive at the top. Oh look, someone left a snack and a note! It says, "Don't touch the pizza; it's lava". Remember, first ask, "do the words mean exactly what they say?" (...) [silly tone, like of course not! haha] No, it would not make any sense if the pizza was actually lava. What is the literal meaning of, 'Don't touch the pizza, it's lava'? (...) We know that pizza is not made of molten rock, but we DO know that lava is very hot. The phrase exaggerated the temperature of the pizza comparing it to lava, however the literal meaning is... the pizza is VERY hot. Next, they head to the final stop. They see the phrase, "Time flies when you're having fun on a quest". Do these words mean EXACTLY what they say? (...) No, we know that time does not actually fly. What is the literal meaning? (...) It means that time passes by surprisingly quickly, (...) just like flying makes you move surprisingly quickly. We did it! We completed the quest! Before we see Zayd and Ari set Hewie free, let's summarize. Remember (...) figurative language, also known as a figure of speech, is a word or phrase that does not have the exact meaning of the words written. As the reader, your job is to determine what the expression actually, or literally means, so you understand what the author is trying to say. First, ask, "do the words mean exactly what they say?" Second, explain in your own words the literal meaning of the phrase. Hooray! Hewie is finally free! Wait (...) what about the pizza?

What is Figurative Language? exercise

Would you like to apply the knowledge you’ve learned? You can review and practice it with the tasks for the video What is Figurative Language? .
  • Identify the correct meanings of figurative language.

    Hints

    Figurative language has more than one name. It is also used in writing for exaggerating or dramatic effect.

    Literal language is when the meaning of a sentence and the meaning of the words used in the sentence are exactly the same.

    There are two correct options to select.

    Solution

    Figurative speech is often also called a figure of speech. It is when a word or phrase does not have the exact meaning of the words written.

  • Identify if the sentences are literal or figurative.

    Hints

    Does the sentence have the exact same meaning as the words? If so, then it is a literal sentence.

    If the meaning of the sentence is something other than the meaning of the words, then it is a figurative sentence.

    I am so happy is a literal sentence. I am so happy, that I'm over the moon is a figurative sentence.

    Solution

    The sentences: I am very happy! Ari is very cute and adorable; The pizza is very hot; Time is always the same speed; all mean exactly what the words mean. These are literal sentences.

    The sentences: Time flies when you are having fun; The pizza is lava; I am over the moon! Ari is as cute as a button! all have extra meaning than just the words. These are figurative sentences.

  • Identify the reasons figurative language is used in writing.

    Hints

    Figurative language makes texts more exciting, imaginative, and fun to read. Figurative language is meant to activate your imagination.

    Figurative language does not get into specific, realistic details. It is used for dramatic effect.

    Solution

    Figurative language is used for dramatic effect, to exaggerate something, to make a point, and to make texts more interesting.

  • Determine whether the sentence is literal or figurative.

    Hints

    Does Ari look like a whirlwind? Does Huey look like a button? If the answer is no this is not a literal sentence.

    Figurative language is a word or phrase that does not have the exact meaning of the words written.

    Solution

    The sentence Ari is a whirlwind is a figurative sentence. It means Ari is moving very quickly and all over the place.

    The sentence You are as cute as a button is a figurative sentence because Huey does not look like a button. The sentence means that Huey looks very cute.

  • Determine the literal meaning of each figurative sentence.

    Hints

    Figurative sentences are dramatic and exciting. They can be thought of as a bedazzled, over the top version of a literal sentence.

    Figurative sentences often use exaggerated or fantasy language, such as over the moon.

    Solution

    The literal meaning of Ari is as cute as a button is that Ari is very cute and adorable.
    The literal meaning of Careful! The pizza is lava! is that the pizza is very hot.
    The literal meaning of I'm over the moon! is that I am very happy and excited.
    The literal meaning of Time flies when you are having fun! is that time seems to go faster when you are having a good time.

  • Determine the literal meaning of each figurative sentence.

    Hints

    Choose a figurative sentence from the left side column. What has similar language (exactly the same words) as the column on the right?

    Every figurative sentence has a literal meaning.

    Solution

    A person with a heart of stone has a hard personality and is not very sympathetic.

    When my mouth is as dry as a bone, then I am very nervous and my mouth is extremely dry.

    When something is like watching grass grow, it is very slow and boring.

    When I bite off more than I can chew, it means I accepted something that is too difficult, and I won't be able to finish it correctly or on time.