What Is Figurative Language? (+ Examples)

January 12, 2023

4 min read

Figurative language is a very useful tool for both writing and speaking.

Figurative language is an essential tool for adding depth and meaning to writing (and speaking!). It can help people express their ideas in a creative, engaging way.

But what exactly is this literary device? It refers to the use of words or phrases that are not meant to be taken literally but rather used to emphasize specific points or create certain images in the reader’s mind.

In this blog post, we’ll explore common types of figurative language and how they can be used effectively in writing.

""If you’re looking to use figurative language and practice your English, check out Yoodli’s free AI Speech coach! You’ll get feedback on your filler words, eye contact, pacing, pronunciation, body language, and word choice!""

What Is Figurative Language?

Figurative language is a linguistic tool that deviates from the literal meaning of words to create a more imaginative and expressive effect. It adds layers of meaning, stimulates the senses, and engages the audience on an emotional level.

By utilizing this type of literary device, speakers and writers can communicate ideas, experiences, and emotions in a more engaging and memorable manner.

Why Do People Use Figurative Language?

People use figurative language for a multitude of reasons. Whether you’re using it in writing, poetry, or spoken language, this type of literary device helps convey something you’re trying to describe.

It can also make the language more interesting and captivate readers or listeners.

Types of Figurative Language

There are many types of figurative language to experiment with. The most common types of figurative language include:

  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Personification
  • Idiom
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Hyperbole
  • Oxymoron
  • Alliteration
  • Allusion

This isn’t an exhaustive list. In fact, there’s many other types of figurative language you can explore. But before that, let’s take a look at some common figurative language examples.

Figurative Language Examples

This linguistic tool can be a bit complex at first, but recognizing some figurative language examples can help illustrate the concepts better.

Here are the most common figurative language examples you need to know.


A simile is one of the most common examples of figurative language. It compares two objects or ideas using “like” or “as.” For example, someone might say, “She was as graceful as a gazelle.” This phrase doesn’t mean that she was a gazelle; it just means that she moved gracefully.


Metaphor is a figure of speech that draws a comparison between two things, highlighting their similarities. By stating that one thing is another, metaphor is useful in simplifying and condensing complicated concepts, putting them in terms your audience can better grasp.

Furthermore, it creates a vivid image. For example, “Her voice is music to my ears” implies that the person’s voice brings joy and pleasure to the listener.

A metaphor is similar to a simile, except it does not use the words “like” or “as.” Instead, it states that one object is another object without any qualifiers.


Personification involves giving human qualities to non-human objects. For example, someone might say, “The wind whispered through the trees.” This phrase does not mean that the wind spoke; instead, it conveys a sense of calmness and serenity by giving human qualities to something non-human—in this case, the wind.

While important in its own respect, personification is often the least popular example of figurative language.

Use AI to get feedback on impromptu speaking and figurative language.


Hyperbole is an exaggeration for emphasis or effect. It is often used for comic relief or to make a point more dramatically than if you were speaking literally.

For example, someone might say, “I’ve been waiting forever!” when they have only been waiting for five minutes. This phrase emphasizes how long they have waited without having to be exact about how long they’ve waited for something.

How to Use Figurative Language

Figurative language serves as a catalyst for effective communication, making it a valuable skill for various contexts, including public speaking, storytelling, writing, and everyday conversations.

Here are some ways in which figurative language can enhance your communication skills.

1. Captivating attention and creating interest

This literary device has the power to captivate the attention of your audience right from the start. By employing metaphors, similes, or vivid imagery, you can create a sense of intrigue and curiosity. This hooks your listeners or readers, drawing them into your message and making them more receptive to your ideas.

2. Conveying complex ideas and emotions

Sometimes, conveying complex ideas or emotions can be challenging using literal language alone. Figurative language provides a means to bridge this gap. By using analogies, personification, or hyperbole, you can simplify complex concepts, make them relatable, and evoke a deeper emotional response from your audience.

3. Enhancing memory and retention

Figurative language makes your message more memorable. The use of metaphors, for example, creates visual associations that are easier to remember than plain facts or descriptions. By appealing to the audience’s imagination, you enhance their ability to retain and recall the information you convey.

4. Evoking emotions and building empathy

One of the most powerful aspects of figurative language is its ability to evoke emotions and build empathy. By incorporating vivid imagery, sensory language, or powerful metaphors, you can connect with your audience on an emotional level, allowing them to experience the message rather than just passively receiving it.

5. Adding depth and creativity to communication

Figurative language brings both depth and creativity to your communication. It allows you to play with words, create interesting contrasts, and craft memorable phrases. By embracing it, you can transform ordinary communication into a rich and engaging experience for both yourself and your audience.

The Bottom Line

Figurative language can help you add emotion and depth to your work while making it more exciting and engaging for listeners. Whether you are looking for ways to bring life to your writing or simply trying to understand how figurative language works in literature, these examples provide insight into how effective they can be when used correctly!

Just remember — the key is using them sparingly so as not to overdo it! With practice and patience, you’ll soon master the art of using figurative language like a pro!


Start practicing with Yoodli.

Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.

Get Yoodli for free