Figurative Language

Figurative language is language that creates an image, connection, or expands one’s interpretation of what a phrase or idea can mean. It often allows readers to visualize or think about a concept in a new way.

Home » Glossary of Literary Terms » Figurative Language
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  • a

  • AdageAn adage is a short, familiar and memorable saying that strikes as an irrefutable truth to a wide segment of the population.
  • AmbiguityAmbiguity is a word or statement that has more than one meaning. If a phrase is ambiguous, it means multiple things.
  • AnalogyAn analogy is an extensive comparison between one thing and another that is very different from it.
  • AntiphrasisAntiphrasis is a rhetorical device that occurs when someone says the opposite of what they mean but their true meaning is obvious.
  • AntithesisAntithesis occurs when two contrasting ideas are put together to achieve a desired outcome.
  • AporiaAporia is a figure of speech where a speaker or writer poses a question. This question expresses doubt or confusion.
  • ArchaismAn archaism is a figure of speech in which a writer’s choice of word or phrase is purposefully old fashioned.
  • AsyndetonAsyndeton is a figure of speech that occurs when words like “and” and “or” (coordinating conjunctions) are removed from sentences.
  • c

  • CatachresisCatachresis is a figure of speech. it occurs when writers use mixed metaphors inappropriately.
  • ConceitThe word conceit refers to two different kinds of comparisons: the metaphysical, made famous by John Donne, and the Petrarchan.
  • e

  • Epic SimileAn epic simile is a long poetic comparison, that uses like or as, and which goes on for several lines. It grows more complicated and reveals its meaning as the lines progress.
  • f

  • Figure of SpeechA figure of speech is created when a writer uses figurative language or that which has another meaning other than its basic definition.
  • h

  • HyperbatonA hyperbaton is a figure of speech in which the order of words in a sentence or line are rearranged.
  • HyperboleHyperbole is defined as an intentionally exaggerated description, comparison, or exclamation meant to make a specific impact on a reader.
  • i

  • IdiomAn idiom is a short-expression that means something different than its literal translation.
  • ImageryImagery refers to the elements of a poem that engage a reader’s senses. These are the important sights, sounds, feelings, and smells.
  • Implied MetaphorAn implied metaphor is a literary device that’s used in everything from short stories to novels and poems.
  • IronyIrony occurs when an outcome is different than expected. It is very possible for one situation to strike one reader as ironic and another not.
  • l

  • LitotesLitotes is a figure of speech that includes a phrase in which a negative word is used in order to express something positive.
  • m

  • MeiosisMeiosis is a figure of speech that when used minimizes the importance of something. This is done through the use of a euphemism.
  • MetalepsisMetalepsis is a figure of speech that occurs when a writer uses a phrase or word in a new context. The chosen phrase or word comes from a different figure of speech.
  • MetaphorA metaphor is used to describe an object, person, situation or action in a way that helps a reader understand it, without using "like" or "as".
  • MetonymyMetonymy a kind of figurative language that refers to a situation in which one term is substituted for another.
  • Mixed MetaphorA mixed metaphor is a literary device that occurs when two or more dissimilar metaphors are fused to forge a comparison, typically creating a ludicrous effect.
  • n

  • Nonce WordA nonce word is a made-up word, or lexeme, created by a writer in poetry or fiction. 
  • o

  • OnomatopoeiaAn onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the natural sound of a thing.
  • OverstatementOverstatement is a type of figurative language. They are descriptions of events, people, situations, and objects that are over exaggerated.
  • OxymoronAn oxymoron is a kind of figurative language in which two contrasting things are connected together.
  • p

  • PloceA ploce is a figure of speech. It occurs when a poet repeats a word with a different emphasis. The technique is used in poetry, prose, and drama. 
  • ProcatalepsisProcatalepsis occurs when the person speaking addresses another point of view before the opponent even speaks.
  • r

  • Reductio ad AbsurdumReductio ad absurdum is used when a speaker argues for their position by attempting to point out the absurdity in the alternative argument.
  • s

  • Sensory LanguageSensory language is the words used to create images that trigger the reader’s senses. These include sight, sound, smell, and taste.
  • SimileA simile is a comparison between two unlike things that uses the words “like” or “as”.
  • SpoonerismSpoonerism occurs when a writer changes the first letters of a word. This might create a new word or something nonsensical.
  • t

  • TropeA trope, in literature, is the use of figurative language to make descriptions more evocative and interesting.
  • z

  • ZeugmaZeugma occurs when the writer uses a single word capable of conveying two different meanings at the same time.