Figurative Language Theory

Figurative language is language that describes something by comparing it to something else. Figurative language goes beyond the literal meaning of words to describe or explain a subject. There are many types of figurative language, including similes, metaphors, alliteration, onomatopoeia, imagery, personification, and hyperbole. Authors use figurative language to help the reader see beyond the written words on the page and to visualize what is going on in the story or poem. You are using figurative language when writing goes beyond the actual meanings of words so that the reader gains new insights into the objects or subjects in the work.

Types of Figurative Language

There are many types of figurative language. Some include the use of a specific type of word or word meaning such as: 1. Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that compares two different things, usually using the words like or as. His feet were as big as boats.
She’s as light as a feather.

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The snow was like a blanket.
She ate like a bird.
2. Metaphor
A metaphor compares two different things without using the words like or as. The comparison is instead made using some form of the “be” verb. Her hair is silk.
My hands are ice.
The football player is an ox.
3. Personification
Personification is a figure of speech in which an animal, inanimate object, or abstract concept is given human characteristics. a smiling moon
art is a jealous mistress
the wind screams
the rain kissed her face

Euphony is used for effects which are pleasant, rhythmical and harmonious.

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example of euphony is the poem Some Sweet Day.

Some day Love shall claim his own
Some day Right ascend his throne,
Some day hidden Truth be known;
Some day—some sweet day.
— Lewis J. Bates, the poem Some Sweet Day

Observe the symmetry of the lines and how the last syllable in the first three lines rhyme. Poetry is considered euphonic, as is well-crafted literary prose [example needed]. Important phonaesthetic devices of poetry are rhyme, assonance and alliteration. Closely related to euphony and cacophony is the concept of consonance and dissonance.

The term ‘periphrasis’ refers to the use of excessive language and surplus words to convey a meaning that could otherwise be conveyed with fewer words and in more direct a manner. The use of this literary device can be to embellish a sentence, to create a grander effect, to beat around the bush and to draw attention away from the crux of the message being conveyed. Example:

Instead of simply saying “I am displeased with your behavior”, one can say, “The manner in which you have conducted yourself in my presence of late has caused me to feel uncomfortable and has resulted in my feeling disgruntled and disappointed with you”.

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Figurative Language Theory. (2016, May 13). Retrieved from

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