Imagery — Figurative Language

Creative writing using images to enhance subject description

Figures of speech add beauty and meaning to content. It clearly makes a visual representation of the intensity of emotions or vivid description of impressions about a certain subject for the full understanding and appreciation of the readers. Images are figures of speech used to deepen a reader’s understanding of a concept or thought. The use of images draws reader’s focus to the author’s message, expands reader’s comprehension about the message, and adds dimension through association. Images evoke literal and emotional experience to the readers.

College textbooks and literature contain figurative expressions that require a student to identify and determine the meaning of the expression based from the context of the sentence or paragraph. Figurative expressions such as images emphasize an idea by expressing it in an unusual form that creates vivid imaginations. Images convey accurate descriptions by creating definite impressions of a concept or object the reader is unfamiliar such as seeing, hearing, feeling, or smelling.

The example below is from the poem of Emily Dickinson “Dying”. This implies that there is silence in the room except for the fly buzzing. The buzzing of the fly enhanced the detailed descriptions of the room’s stillness, which evokes the readers’ senses. This tells the reader that the room is very silent and still except for the sound of the fly.

“I heard a fly buzz when I died;

The stillness round my form

Was like the stillness in the air

Between the heaves of storm.”

The use of images throughout the poem creates enjoyment through evaluation of images interrelationship and meaning. Images make a speech memorable but mostly found in poetry. They stay in the mind of the readers longer than the text because it creates pictures of experience to people’s minds appealing to one or more of the human five senses. One great example below is the speech of the former US President George H. W. Bush when he delivered his acceptance address to the Republican National Convention in 1988.

“a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”

Personification — Figurative Language

Personification — Figurative Language

The art of personification makes your content more interesting

Personification is the art of motivating the interest and imagination of the reader by giving human characteristics and traits to non-human objects. There are many forms and techniques in writing personification. One can personify an object, a concept, or an animal. Human characteristics represent human qualities, action, or feelings usually use in abstraction. Personification by definition is a figure of speech that assigns human qualities to objects or non-human characters.

Personification — Figurative Language

Metaphors greatly practice and introduce personification. The author, James Thomson, in the example below speaks of the sturdy sons stooping as actually the trees stooping. The personification is evident at the end part of the sentence that mentioned shade.

“The mountain thunders; and its sturdy sons

Stoop to the bottom of the rocks they shade.”

Authors frequently write similar instances on inanimate objects to move the readers’ imagination towards an external source imparting some motion over an inanimate object just like the first example above.

Figurative Language — Personification

Many authors practiced personification by connecting objects with specific circumstances. The example below from James Thomson “An Ode on Aelus’s Harp” provides readers an imagined animated being, which is literally the kind of object presented for the readers to notice. This naturally suggested type of personification does not employ high state of excitement. They may sound boring at times. Authors seldom use this kind of personification to their literary works.

Personification — Figurative Language

“Along the mazy current. Low the woods

Bow their hoar head;”

Here is another example from James Thomson “From winter, a snow storm.”

“The sky saddens with the gathered storm.”

“The cherished fields

Put on their winter robe of purest white.”

Students widely used personifications to process information or content. An example is the Cule E. Mol goes underground

Subject: Science

Topic: Diffusion

The simplest forms of personification are the following:

Personify an object as in the example below where wink represents the human actions and the window is the inanimate object.

“The camera winked at me.”

“My computer hates me.

Personify an animal where the joy or any feelings represent the human feelings and the bird or any animal is the inanimate object.

Oxymoron — Figurative Language

Figurative Language — Oxymoron

Oxymorons are phrases in which the components are incongruous or contradictory in several ways. Often times, at the very least one word in the oxymoron has several meanings or has not been used factually. In some instances, shorthand is used. This is where the self-contradiction arises. Here are some examples to help you understand oxymoron better.

Inadvertent oxymorons

An oxymoron could be inadvertently created by sloppiness or errors in conversation. Common examples of these include objective opinion, original copy, extremely average and pretty ugly. In certain instances, inadvertent oxymorons end up being widely used as concept names. In such cases, they cease being identified as oxymorons. Examples of these include virtual reality, living dead and bittersweet.

Oxymoron as a pun

Numerous oxymorons have been made popular in vernacular communication. Unlike the literary oxymorons, most of them are intended to create paradoxes, they are just puns. For instance open secret, jumbo shrimp, accidentally on purpose, controlled chaos, alone in a crowd and organized mess.

There are numerous examples where words that are seemingly contradictory are juxtaposed such that there are no contradictions. These include pretty ugly, hot ice and same difference. Whether these could legitimately be referred to as oxymorons or not is openly debatable.

Paradoxical oxymorons – Figurative language

Paradoxical oxymorons that have been turned into clichés include:

· Silent scream
· Serious joke
· Forward retreat
· Deafening silence
· Sweet sorrow

Oxymoron — Figurative Language

Oxymorons are figures of speech through which locutions produce incongruous superficially self-contradictory effects such as jumbo shrimp. Oxymoron usually combines terms that are contradictory. They are present in numerous contexts from such inadvertent errors as extremely average to such deliberate puns as same difference. Oxymorons can also be found in literary works where they have been crafted to reveal paradoxes.

Oxymoron — Figurative Language

Oxymorons are a combination of incongruous or contradictory words for instance jumbo shrimp (where jumbo stands for large while shrimp stands for small) or cruel kindness. They are literary figures of speech where contradictory or opposite terms, ideas, phrases or words are put together so as to create rhetorical effects through paradoxical means. There are some oxymorons that are not as obvious. These require a prior understanding of regional and verbal interpretations. Some even indicate particular prejudices. An oxymoron is neither an error nor a mistake. It makes an appealing phrase and effective title with some even being humorous.

Figurative Language — Idioms

Figurative Language — Idioms

Idioms are words, phrases or expressions with figurative meanings that are understood in regard to the common use of expressions that are separate to the definition or literal of words that make it. There are at the very least 25000 expressions that are idiomatic-like in American English.

Figurative Language — Idioms

In linguistics, idioms are considered as figures of speech that contradict the compositionality principle. However, this is still a debatable matter. Idioms are words that are collocated, affixed together to a point that they metamorphosise to fossilized terms. The collocation, words often used in groups, redefines all the component words in the word-groups and thus become idiomatic expressions. The words develop specialized meanings as entities and thus as idioms. In addition, idioms are words, phrases and expressions whose sense denotes something distinct from what is implied by the words.

Figurative Language — Idioms

When speakers use idioms, the listeners mistake their actual meaning especially if they have not heard of the figures of speech before. An idiom never translates well. In certain instances, when idioms are translated into other languages, their meanings change. In some case, they even become meaningless.


For the English expression, ‘to kick the bucket’, listeners who only understand the meaning of kick and bucket may be unable to construe the true meaning of the expression which is to die. They would even regard ‘to pass away’, as euphemistic. Idioms sometimes confuse those people who are not familiar with them. It is for this reason, that students of English as a new language are required to learn as vocabulary its idiomatic expressions. The majority of the words of natural languages possess idiomatic origins. However, because they are assimilated, they lose their figurative sense.

Culture and idioms

Idioms are colloquial metaphors; terms that require foundational information, experience or knowledge to be employed within particular cultures where the conversational aspect shares cultural references. Accordingly, an idiom is not regarded as part of a language rather part of a culture. Because culture is localized, beyond the local context, an idiom is useless. Still, certain idioms are universal. As such they can be translated and their metaphoric meaning deduced very easily.

According to the New International Webster Collage Dictionary, idioms are expressions that cannot be easily analyzed from their grammatical construction or even from the meanings attached to their component parts. They are part of distinctive construction or form of particular languages that have specific styles or forms present only in those languages. The Random House Webster Collage Dictionary agrees with the definition. It even expands it further adding that idioms are expressions whose meanings are not predictable from common grammatical language rules or even from common meanings of the constituent elements. Therefore, as expressions peculiar to languages idiom expressions of and in themselves are peculiar.

Unlike numerous other language aspects, idioms do not change with time. Some idioms lose or gain favor in pop culture. However, they hardly ever experience a real shift in their make up. Individuals have the tendency to over exaggerate what they really mean. The result of this is the birth of new idioms.

Figurative Language — Hyperbole

Figurative Language — Hyperbole

Hyperbole is a form of figurative language. Often times, people confuse them with metaphors and similes probably because they also compare objects. The distinction is that hyperboles are exaggerations. People use such expressions as ‘I nearly died laughing’, ‘I tried a thousand times’ and ‘I was hopping mad’. The statements are not exactly true; however people do make them sound impressive. They use them to emphasize feelings, reactions or effort.

Figurative Language — Hyperbole

Hyperboles (meaning exaggeration or excess) are figures of speech in which there is an exaggeration of statements. They could be used to create strong impressions or even stir up strong feelings. However, they are not intended to be taken as factual. Hyperboles are also used to mean exaggerated feelings on certain things.

Figurative Language — Hyperbole

Hyperboles are used to create emphasis. They are literary devices used commonly in poetry. They are regularly encountered in everyday speech. They are also defined as visual techniques in which deliberate exaggeration of particular image parts is employed. The exaggeration of an individual’s facial features in political cartoons is one example.

Simile — Figurative Language

Simile — Figurative Language

Similes are figures of speech that compare two different things. They introduce these things with the words ‘as’ and ‘like’. Though metaphors and similes are types of comparison, similes allow the ideas to remain different despite their similarities. On the other hand, metaphors compare things without using the words ‘as’ or ‘like’.

Simile — Figurative Language

A simile mnemonic is that ‘similes are alike or similar’. Because of their expressive nature as figures of speech, similes are commonly used in literally works. Unlike metaphors, similes depending on how a user needs them to be can be precise so as to explicitly predicate the single features of targets or to predicate open-ended and under-determined body of characteristics vaguely. The observation that a simile is likely to be employed with an explicit explanation of its intended meaning is supported by empirical research. This offers support to claims that a simile is preferred especially if the user is keen on associating out-of-the-ordinary or unusual property with targets.

Simile — Figurative Language

Similes are comparisons between two different things. They are signaled overtly. In the English language, similes are expressed using the words as or like.

Onomatopoeia — Figurative Language

Onomatopoeia is a term that comes from two Greek words one that stands for ‘name’ and the other that stands for ‘I make’. The term suggests or imitates the sound sources that it describes. Onomatopoeia, which is a noun that is uncountable, is used to refer to properties of the words. Onomatopoeia commonly occurs in such animal noises as ‘meow’, ‘roar’ and ‘oink’. Onomatopoeia is not universal. It is different across different languages. They usually conform to a certain degree to the wider linguistic system which they form part of. Therefore, sounds made by clocks may be tick-tock in the English language.

Other examples which are common in the English language include zoom, beep, splash, hiccup and bang. The sounds made by machines are usually described using onomatopoeia for instance beep-beep and honk for automobile horns or brum and vroom for engines. Individuals use the word ’zap’ when talking of mishaps involving the audible arcing made by electricity. However, the word has been expanded and is commonly used to describe effects of a non-auditory nature for instance the destruction or interference that is similar to that produced by sparking that occurs in short circuits.

When it comes to sounds made by animals, such words as bark (dogs). Meow (cat), quack (duck) and roar (lion) are commonly employed in the English language. The words are used as both verbs and nouns. Synthetic and agglutinative languages are able to incorporate onomatopoeic words into the makeup flexibly. This usually evolves into new words up a point where they can no longer be identified as onomatopoeia. An example is ‘bleat’ (noise made by sheep), in ancient times, the word was pronounced as ‘blairt’ or ‘blet’. As onomatopoeia, this is more accurate compared to how it is pronounced in modern times.

An example to illustrate an opposite case is the word ‘cuckoo’. Due to the continuous familiarity with noise made by birds over the years, it has retained the pronunciation to-date. The vowels have also not changed as is the case in ‘furrow’.

Metaphor — Figurative Language

Metaphor — Figurative Language:

Comparison use is considered to be the most effective and simplest poetic device. It would be correct to conclude that poetry has its foundations on two ways of comparing stuff: metaphor and simile. You can heighten normal speech through continual use of comparisons such as ‘sharp as a tack’, ‘pretty as a picture’, ‘fresh as daisy’ or even ‘comfortable as an old shoe’. They are recognizable similes that use words such as ‘like’ and ‘as’.

Metaphor — Figurative Language

Metaphors are comparisons. Metaphors establish relationships and leave more to one’s imagination. They serve as shortcuts to the meaning; they set two things that are unlike against each other allowing you to see their similarity. Robert Burn used a simile when he wrote ‘My love is like a red, red rose’. On the other hand, Robert Herrick used a metaphor when he wrote ‘You are a tulip’. By mixing metaphors and similes in her poems ‘Indian Summer’, ‘A Cemetery’ and ‘A Book’, Emily Dickinson used comparison with far much greater originality. The poem ‘A Book’, illustrates association (the connection of ideas) which is another poetic device. In the first two lines of ‘A Book’, the author compares poetry to ship and in the following two to a horse. However, Emily Dickinson considered the words ‘Horse’ and ‘Ship’ to be commonplace. Ship then became ‘frigate,’ a beautiful romance full-sailed vessel while ‘horse’ which a beast that plods and pulls wagons became a ‘course’, a creature whose hooves beat out brisk rhythms and one that is adventurous, swift and with spirited steed. It ‘prances’ like the pages of enthused poetry. Therefore, because of association and comparison, objects that are familiar become glamorous and strange. It could then be argued that poets are individuals who are able to see resemblance in everything.

Metaphor — Figurative Language

Metaphors are considered to be more active (forceful) than analogies. This is because metaphors assert two similar things whereas analogies acknowledge their differences. Other comparative figures of speech that are rhetorical for instance similes, parables, synecdoche and metonymy are metaphor species distinguished by the way in which comparisons are communicated. Metaphor categories contain the following specialized types:

Allegory: This is a metaphor that is extended. In stories it illustrates the key attributes of a subject.

Catachresis: This is a mixed metaphor that is used by rhetorical fault (accident and design).

Parable: This is also a metaphor that is extended. Parables are usually narrated as anecdotes. They illustrate and teach moral lessons.

Figures of Speech and Figurative Language

Figurative language and Figures of Speech

Figurative and literal language is considered a distinction especially when it comes to the traditional language analysis systems. Literal language is a term used to refer to words that do not digress from their already defined meaning. On the other hand, figurative language is used to refer to groups or words, or words that exaggerate or change the normal meaning of component words. Figurative language could involve analogies to other contexts or similar concepts as well as exaggerations. Figures of speech result in these alterations.

Figurative language examples and details

In traditional study, language in literal expression indicates what it stands for according to dictionary or common usage. On the other hand, language in figurative expression connotes. That is it adds meaning in order to convert utterances to meaning, a cognitive framework that is made of the memories of possible meanings that are obtainable to apply to specific language in their contexts. The memories place importance on the literal and most common meanings. They also suggest the reason behind giving different meanings. For instance, readers understand that an author proposes a different meaning for it.

For example, a sentence like “The ground is thirsty” is partially figurative. While the word ‘Ground’ has a literal meaning, ground in itself is not a living thing. As such it neither feels thirsty nor drinks. A reader will reject the literal interpretation. They will instead interpret the sentence to mean ‘The ground is dry’. This is an analogy to a condition that triggers thirst in animals. Nonetheless, interpreting a statement like ‘When I first saw her, my soul began to quiver’ is much harder. It may describe panic, infatuation or something different. The context required by a person to interpret such statements is awareness with the feelings of the speakers. Some people may give some words provisional sets of meaning. However, they may not be able to understand the figurative utterances before acquiring additional information. Figurative language heads off from literal meaning so as to achieve special meaning or effect. Ways of doing this have been listed in the article that discusses about Figures of Speech.

Applying a figure of speech is the use of a word that digresses from its usual meaning. It also stands for phrases with specialized meanings that are not based on the exact meaning of such words contained in it as similes, personification or similes. A figure of speech provides clarity, emphasis as well as expression freshness. Nonetheless, where figures of speech introduce ambiguity between figurative and literal interpretations, clarity may be compromised. In some instances, figures of speech are also referred to as locution or rhetoric.