Figurative Expression

In traditional analysis, words in figurative expressions connote additional layers of meaning, while words in literal expressions denote what they mean according to common or dictionary usage. When the human ear or eye receives the message, the mind must interpret the data to convert it into meaning.

What are Figuratives? On many occassions, the words may not convey the literal meaning of them. They may convey the indirect meanings which may be just the opposite to their literal meanings. Such symbolical and metaphorical meanings are called Figuratives. They contain the figure of speech.

Let us see few hundreds of such Figuratives here.The Figuratives have been arranged in the alphabetical order. Go to the list by clicking that particular page.

Let us see few examples to make the point clear.


The Phrase
Yellow Press does not give the literal meaning that the press which is in Yellow color.On the contrary, it conveys the meaning of The News Papers which publish sensational and unscrupulous stories about crime, sex etc...


The Phrase
In the same boat does not convey the literal meaning. It has the figurative meaning that in the same misfortune or circumstances.

Here is the list of Figurative Expressions beginning with


Above all - chiefly, before everything else

Above-board – not open to question, honest, straight forward, beyond reproach

Above-par – of superior quality


On account of – for the sake of

On no account – not for any reason

To give a good account of oneself – to act with credit to oneself


A fidus Achates – a faithful friend


The heel of Achilles – a weak spot

(Achilles, the famous Greek hero of the Iliad, when a child, had been dipped by his mother, Thetis, in the river Styx in order to make him invulnerable, The heel by which she held him was not touched by the water, and through out his life this part of his body was his weak point. He was killed by Paris, who pierced his heel with an arrow.)


An Adonis – a very handsome man


To build castles in the air – to think of something impossible of realization: to day-dream: to conceive fanciful ideas.

To assume airs – to affect superiority

To air one’s opinions – to give vent to one’s feelings in public


To stand aloof – to keep to oneself and not mix with others


To lead to the altar – to marry


An Amazon – a warlike woman, a masculine woman


An Ananias – a liar


To weigh anchor – to be about to sail

To cast anchor – to drop anchor into the sea, to fix oneself


An Apollo – a man with a perfect physique


The apple of discord – a cause of strife, contention, or quarrel

(Eris the Goddess of Discord had not been invited to the wedding of Peleud and Thetis, the parents of Achilles. To avenge this slight, Eris threw among the guests a golden apple on which was written “For the most beautiful." Juno, Minerva and Venus contended for this prize of beauty and this quarrel finally led to the Trojan War.)

To upset the apple cart – to disturb the peace

Apple pie order – in perfect order


To be tied to his mother’s apron strings – to be under the control and influence of his mother


Arcadian life – a blissfully happy, rural and simple life (Arcadia was Beautiful rural district in Greece, whose inhabitants led simple, happy lives.)


To keep a person at arm’s length – to avoid coming in contact with a person, refuse to be on familiar terms with that person

To take up arms – to flight; to go to war

To receive with open arms – to welcome cordially


Attic salt – refined, subtle wit, (for which the Athenians were famous)


To cleanse the Augean stables – to effect great improvements in government, or to abolish great abuses, in a very short time

(One of the twelve labors of Hercules was to clear the stables of Augeas, King of Ellis, in which were 3,000 oxen and which stables had not been cleaned for thirty years. Hercules performed the task in a single day by leading the rivers Alpheus and Peneus through the farmyard.)


To have an axe to grind – to have some selfish objective in view

Figurative Expressions Index

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