10 Examples of Figurative Language to Explore

Exploring examples of figurative language will help you use these literary devices skillfully when you write.

Figurative language is a literary device that uses figures of speech to make writing more interesting. When writing in this way, you use words in a way that is different from their literal meaning, but not with the intention of confusing the reader. Rather, you are trying to make your work more poetic and artistic or cause the reader to think a little bit more about it.

There are many examples of figurative language used in English writing. Taking a closer look at them will help you learn to make use of them in your own writing projects.

Examples of Figurative Language Commonly Found in Literature

Examples of figurative language to explore

If you want to weave this type of literary device into your writing, you must first be able to identify examples of figurative language. While there are more than these 10, these are some of the most popular that are worth adding to your writing toolbox.

1. Metaphor

Metaphor examples in Literature
Metaphors draw comparisons between two things that are not alike

Metaphors draw comparisons between two things that are not alike, but make them seem similar. Metaphors make these comparisons without using the words “like” or “as.”

Example: What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet, the sun! This quote from William Shakespeare’s iconic play compares Romeo’s love to the sun.

Read our guide to metaphor examples in literature.

2. Simile

Simile is similar to a metaphor, but it is more direct. in a simile, the two unlike items get compared using the terms ‘like” or “as.” 

Example: His life was like a rollercoaster, traveling to peaks of excitement the dropping into pits of despair. Unless the man lives on an amusement park ride, this is an example of simile.

Read our guide to metaphor vs simile.

3. Alliteration

In alliteration, the initial consonant sound gets repeated in words that are near each other. This use of words makes the reading more interesting and poetic. Choosing alliterated adjectives can add interest to your piece.

Example: The red rose told of his undying romantic love. Red, rose, and romantic all use the letter “r,” making them an example of alliteration.

4. Hyperbole

Hyperbole is a form of exaggeration used to get a point across. In the literal sense, hyperbole makes no sense, but this use of figurative language gives the reader or listener a sense of greater force. 

Example: I have asked you a million times to leave your shoes by the back door when they are muddy. The speaker clearly has not asked a million times, but the hyperbole emphasizes her frustration.

5. Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia uses words that sound like their meaning. This gives more meaning and imagery to the writing, helping the reader to imagine not only the sight of the item being described but also its sound.

Example: The banging and clanging sounds from the kitchen meant mom was busy making a feast. The words “banging” and “clanging” sound like the noises they describe.

6. Oxymoron

An oxymoron puts together two opposite words to make one statement. Controlled chaos or silent scream are examples of oxymorons because these two words have very different meanings. Oxymorons cause readers to stop and think more deeply about the meaning of what you write.

Example: We had a friendly fight over who would sit in the front seat. Fights are rarely friendly, so “friendly fight” is an oxymoron.

7. Synecdoche

This figure of speech allows part of something to signify the whole of it or the other way around. Using synecdoche helps you write about something without using the same term over and over. It also gives your writing more artistic merit. 

Example: The teenager’s friends were impressed with his new wheels when he drove up. In this sentence, “wheels” refers to a full vehicle, not just the wheels on the vehicle. 

8. Assonance

Assonance makes the English language more poetic when writers repeat the same vowel sound in words that are close to each other. This almost creates a rhyming sound, but the end sound of the words may not be the same. 

Example: He was a lean, mean, fighting machine. Five words in this sentence use the long “e” sound. 

9. Personification 

Personification refers to giving human characteristics to a nonhuman entity, like an animal or an inanimate object. Writers use this tool to connect with their readers more personally, even when talking about something that is not human in nature.

Example: The eyes on the potato seemed to be staring back at me in judgment. Obviously, potato eyes do not stare, making this an example of personification.

10. Consonance 

Consonance allows words to repeat the same consonant sound. Unlike alliteration, the sound does not have to be the beginning sound but can be any sound in the phrase. 

Example: What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore. This line from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” repeats the hard “g” sound repeatedly.

A Final Word On Examples Of Figurative Language

Whether you work personification into your writing or take advantage of the dissonance created with an oxymoron, using these examples of figurative language will make your writing more artistic. The most skilled writers in history use literary devices to convey meaning in a less direct way. 

Writing with literal meaning has its place, but sometimes you want to write with a bit more vagueness to make the reader think about your meaning. Find ways to weave these types of figurative language into your writing to make it more engaging. 

FAQs on Examples of Figurative Language

What are two examples of figurative language?

Two common examples of figurative language are personification and simile. Personification uses human traits to represent non-human items. A simile uses the words “like” and “as” to compare unlike items.

Is imagery a figurative language?

Imagery uses rich, descriptive words to appeal to a reader’s senses and make the interpretation of a written work more accurate. It is not a form of figurative language.


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