Figurative Language Theory

Categories: Metaphor

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

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An 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.

Periphrasis Definition: 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”.

Figurative Language Use and Examples

Figurative language is used in poems, songs, books, short stories, and in everyday language. The use of similes and hyperboles are able to affect the tone, meaning and theme that better explain the meaning in stories and songs. Figurative language is meant to appeal to the senses in order to provide interest and evoke emotion in what is being read or heard. Alicia Keys, “This Girl Is On Fire”, is a great example of figurative language. The figurative language in this song provides a respectful and jovial tone, and it also demonstrates the theme of the capability of potential and societies urge to undermine the success of others.

The first verse of the song sets the tone of respect and the theme of potential. The first lines of the song use multiple metaphors that read “She’s just a girl, and she’s on fire. Hotter than a fantasy, longer like a highway. She’s living in a world, and it’s on fire,” which demonstrate how this girl is just an ordinary girl but she has been able to accomplish great things in this competitive world that we live in. The following verse also demonstrates how the ordinary girl has “stood her ground” in the competitive world. The verse contains an idiom that reads “Oh, she got both feet on the ground…Oh, she got her head in the clouds and she’s not backing down,” which states that the ordinary girl has ideas that may seem unrealistic but she will strive to make these ideas come to life and not just be a daydream. Throughout the song “This girl is on fire” is repeated, hence it is the chorus. When the chorus is on, the audience just awaits that powerful note, because throughout the song Alicia Keys puts the most emphasis on these five words. The repetition of that line demonstrates the strength and potential this ordinary girl has. Also the repetition and vibrato behind the chorus, makes the metaphor that much more powerful and believable to the audience; it is able to evoke a sense of hope in the audience for this ordinary girl.

The fourth verse of the songs reads “Looks like a girl, but she’s a flame. So bright, she can burn your eyes. Better look the other way,” which makes a great example of the power this girl has. The combination of a simile and metaphor in the first line portrays that the girl is no ordinary girl. When people look at her, they probably just see an ordinary girl walking the street that might not be doing anything great with her life. But the metaphor “she’s a flame” contradicts that completely. Metaphors make stronger comparisons between two things than a simile does. Since the metaphor contradicts the simile, then the metaphor overpowers the simile stating that the girl is not an ordinary girl. The next two lines of the verse put more emphasis on the girl being a flame. The metaphor is a representation of how great the girl is. The fire and flame representing this girl is something uncommon in the competitive world we live in,because as a whole people want to be more successful than others. Therefore her flame “burns people’s eyes” because they are not prepared for potential within her. The potential behind her is so powerful that people are not able to handle her strength so they “better look the other way,” or they will get burned by her passion to succeed in life. It is also be another example of how people try to undermine other’s success, but no one will be able to bring down her hope for greatness.

The next lines of the verse are a combination of hyperboles and metaphors. “You can try but you’ll never forget her name. She’s on top of the world. Hottest of the hottest girls say,” these lines demonstrate that she already has achieved some of her goals. The first line is a hyperbole that is also related to the example stated above about how people try to undermine the success of others, but she will not let people take away her success. Therefore even though people might try forget her and the goals she has accomplished, she will not let it happen. Also since “she is a fire” her success is so great that it would be hard to forget. The metaphor and idiom “she’s on top of the world” also demonstrates the success that she has achieved. The idiom means that she has reached her goal and succeeded which makes it harder for people to forget her. This is clear because if “she is on top of the world” then she has made a name for herself that has impacted the world and her life immensely. Therefore she will not just be an ordinary girl anymore, and now she will not be overlooked or forgotten.

The next verse reads “Everybody stands, as she goes by. Cause they can see the flame that’s in her eyes. Watch her when she’s lighting up the night,” which is able to demonstrate how people do not view her as an ordinary girl anymore. When people see her they stop to take notice of the greatness that she has become. The metaphor of “the flame in her eyes” demonstrates how she is not done trying to achieve her goals.This girl has far more potential left in her and will accomplish them. The next metaphor demonstrates that people now see the hope and potential she has within her. When she reaches the rest of her potential, she will “night up the light”. The idiom means that the feeling she will feel when she has reached her full potential will be strong enough that people will see how her attitude changes to bright and cheery, and her bright attitude will be able to brighten up the night. The idiom just restates the strength and potential this not so ordinary girl has.

The figurative language is full of praise for this not so ordinary girl. The explanation of how great and powerful this girl is demonstrates the respect the girl deserves. She was able to reach her goals even though people might not have believed in her. Therefore the tone is evident throughout the whole song, and so are the themes. This girl has reached her full potential and people are now taking notice, so now she will be respected and not forgotten. The figurative language in this song was well combined and well orchestrated to show the theme and tone simultaneously.

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

Figurative Language Theory

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