Figurative Language and Speech

Broadly figurative language is the use of figures of speech to be more effective, persuasive, and to have your words/speech be more impact on the reader/listen.

Metaphor, simile, allusion go beyond the literal, giving the more meaning and insight to our readers. On the opposite side of the figurative spectrum are alliteration, imagery, and onomatopoeia which appeal to the senses.

The five different forms of figurative language.

Donald Trump is not too dim, is an understatement.

George Bush orated like a scholar, is an overstatement.

The sentence, “Donald is a dim light bulb.,” is a metaphor. Metaphor and simile both are types of figurative language that attempt to make on thing resemble another.

Figures of Sound. The use of the sound of a word or phrase (or the repetition of sounds) to convey a particular effect. Common ones are alliteration, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, and rhyme. Also, onomatopoeia, or words designed to mimic a sound. Words like, “swoosh,” “buzz,” “clank,” “boom are examples of what is called figures of sound and a part of figurative language.

An effect similar to an onomatopoeic word can be created by combining alliteration . If you mix alliteration with the idea of mimicking sound you can create the same thing.

In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” he uses the phrase “furrow followed free” to mimic the sound of a wake of waves behind a moving ship.

Errors in speech, often used as comedic value or to avoid censorship, as in “Go duck yourself, you bat fastered.


Verbal Games. Idiom is a mixing of the literal with the figurative. In the phrase “keep an eye out” there is both literal and figurative meaning, and if we attempted to remove the literal meaning it would be quite comical, if not gross.

Verbal games are plays on words like puns.

I saw the ball and wonder, “why is it getting bigger,” and then it hit me. The speaker here was either hit bit a ball or an epiphany, or perhaps both, but either way a play on words led us to multiple understandings.

Those are the five forms of figurative language but what cannot ever be alluded to is depth and breadth of their importance to literary work by such a list. Some of these five will be less useful and other will be more useful in your poetry, but this is the color of language and the spice that keeps things tasting fresh, use as desired.

Types of Figurative Language (to become links)
This covers a wide range of literary devices and techniques, some of which include:

Simile
Metaphor
Personification
Onomatopoeia
Oxymoron
Hyperbole
Allusion
Idiom
Imagery
Symbolism
Alliteration
Assonance
Consonance
Metonymy
Synecdoche
Irony
Sarcasm
Litotes
Pun
Anaphora
Tautology
Understatement

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