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figurative language (definition)


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Figurative language is a word or phrase that departs from everyday literal language for the sake of comparison, emphasis, clarity, or freshness. Metaphor and simile are the two most commonly used figures of speech, but things like hyperbole, synecdoche, puns, and personification are also figures of speech.

Used well, figurative language enhances your fiction and can be an economical way of getting an image or a point across. However, used incorrectly, figurative language can be confusing or downright silly.

Also Known As: figure of speech, rhetorical figure, metaphorical language

"Its fleece was white as snow" is an example of a figurative language from a children's rhyme. In this case, comparing the lamb's fleece to snow helps create a picture of how white Mary's lamb really was.

To discover more examples of figurative language and to test your knowledge, take the quiz on figurative language.

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