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

SearchCompliance

  • risk management

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

  • compliance as a service (CaaS)

    Compliance as a Service (CaaS) is a cloud service service level agreement (SLA) that specified how a managed service provider (...

  • data protection impact assessment (DPIA)

    A data protection impact assessment (DPIA) is a process designed to help organizations determine how data processing systems, ...

SearchSecurity

  • cybersecurity insurance (cybersecurity liability insurance)

    Cybersecurity insurance, also called cyber liability insurance or cyber insurance, is a contract that an entity can purchase to ...

  • phishing

    Phishing is a form of fraud in which an attacker masquerades as a reputable entity or person in email or other communication ...

  • cybercrime

    Cybercrime is any criminal activity that involves a computer, networked device or a network.

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • disaster recovery team

    A disaster recovery team is a group of individuals focused on planning, implementing, maintaining, auditing and testing an ...

  • cloud insurance

    Cloud insurance is any type of financial or data protection obtained by a cloud service provider. 

SearchStorage

  • NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF)

    NVMe over Fabrics, also known as NVMe-oF and non-volatile memory express over fabrics, is a protocol specification designed to ...

  • logical unit number (LUN)

    A logical unit number (LUN) is a unique identifier for designating an individual or collection of physical or virtual storage ...

  • CIFS (Common Internet File System)

    CIFS (Common Internet File System) is a protocol that gained popularity around the year 2000, as vendors worked to establish an ...

Close