A Word A Day : Figurative

Word of 19th June 2007: A Word A Day-Figurative


( Adjective )

Figurative (FIG yur uh tiv): based on figures of speech, expressing something in terms usually used for something else, metaphorical

To say that the autumn hillside was a blaze of color is to use the word blaze in a figurative sense. The hillside wasn't really on fire, but the colors of the leaves made it appear (somewhat) as though it were.

When the Mayor said that the housing market had sprouted wings, he was speaking figuratively. The housing market hadn't really sprouted wings. It had merely grown so rapidly that it had almost seemed to fly.

A figurative meaning of a word is one that is not literal. A literal statement is one in which every word means exactly what it says. If the housing market had literally sprouted wings, genuine wings would somehow have popped out of it.

People very, very often confuse these words, using one when they really mean the other. Andy could literally eat money if he chewed up and swallowed a dollar bill. Andy's car eats money only figuratively, in the sense that it is very expensive to operate.

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