Browse Definitions :
Definition

figurative language

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Figurative language is writing or speech in which a type of linguistic device has been used to make the language more interesting or impactful.  Similes and metaphors are examples of figurative language, as are personification, hyperbole, idioms, irony, sarcasm, puns and understatements. Figurative language can cause interpretation problems for both humans and artificial intelligence (AI) systems when the phrasing lacks contextual clues. The term figurative language is typically contrasted with literal language. Literal language can be taken at face value and easily understood.

Most types of figurative language pose their own particular challenges to interpretation. Verbal irony, for example, may present as a word or sentence that is intended to be understood as meaning the opposite of the literal meaning. For example, “The reorg starts next week – I can hardly wait!” would be understood by coworkers as ironic because reorganizations are typically painful. However, a natural language processing (NLP) program would require additional contextual information to understand that the sentence does not actually mean the employee is looking forward to the event.

Figurative language also includes imagery and sound-based linguistic devices, such as onomatopoeia, assonance, consonance and other sound-rhyming schemes, but the distinction between figures of speech and figurative language is not universally agreed-upon in those cases. Instead, the choice of whether to call something a figure of speech or figurative language may simply be differentiated by the number of words used. For example, individual words and short phrases or sentences may be referred to as figures of speech, while an entire piece of content may be spoken of as figurative language.

See also: figure of speech, linguistic ambiguity

This was last updated in January 2019

Continue Reading About figurative language

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

  • risk assessment

    Risk assessment is the identification of hazards that could negatively impact an organization's ability to conduct business.

  • PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)

    The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a widely accepted set of policies and procedures intended to ...

  • risk management

    Risk management is the process of identifying, assessing and controlling threats to an organization's capital and earnings.

SearchSecurity

SearchHealthIT

  • telemedicine (telehealth)

    Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services, such as health assessments or consultations, over the ...

  • Project Nightingale

    Project Nightingale is a controversial partnership between Google and Ascension, the second largest health system in the United ...

  • medical practice management (MPM) software

    Medical practice management (MPM) software is a collection of computerized services used by healthcare professionals and ...

SearchDisasterRecovery

SearchStorage

  • hot plugging

    Hot plugging is the addition of a component to a running computer system without significant interruption to the operation of the...

  • M.2 SSD

    An M.2 SSD is a solid-state drive (SSD) that conforms to a computer industry specification and is used in internally mounted ...

  • kilobyte (KB or Kbyte)

    A kilobyte (KB or Kbyte) is a unit of measurement for computer memory or data storage used by mathematics and computer science ...

Close