All terms

What is Figurative Language?

Language used in a non-literal way to convey a certain meaning or effect.

The Figurative Flight of Language

Figurative language is the bread and butter, the meat and potatoes, the sun and moon of creative writing.

It's the tool that allows writers to soar beyond the boundaries of plain, literal language.

By using comparisons (like similes and metaphors), evocative adjectives and adverbs, and sound patterns (like alliteration and assonance), writers can communicate ideas or emotions in a fresh, imaginative way.

Figurative language can also create powerful imagery, making it one of the cornerstones of effective poetry and prose. Using figurative language, writers can make the abstract concrete, or the concrete abstract, leading to a better understanding of the subject matter.

Figuratively Speaking: Examples from the Page

Why talk in a plain, factual manner when you can use figurative language to paint a rich, colorful picture?

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (T.S. Eliot)

"The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window panes...

Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

And seeing that it was a soft October night,

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep."

Eliot creates a vivid image of a sleepy, hazy evening using personification (the fog's tongue), adjectives (yellow, soft, sudden), and other techniques.

The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost)

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference."

Frost uses a powerful metaphor to describe his decision-making process, ultimately conveying the importance of taking risks.