Definition of figurative
2a : expressing one thing in terms normally denoting another with which it may be regarded as analogous : metaphorical figurative language in a figurative sense, civilization marches up and down — Lewis Mumfordb : characterized by figures of speech a figurative description
Examples of figurative in a Sentence
The phrase “know your ropes” means literally “to know a lot about ropes,” while its figurative meaning is “to know a lot about how to do something.”
the figurative use of “allergy” to mean “a feeling of dislike”
Recent Examples of figurative from the Web
Both words are typically used in a figurative sense.
All his rivals saw most of the race was his figurative vapor trail.
There's plenty of the figurative beef to go around, too.
These literal and figurative buggers put a dent in how much stress your returning spelunkers regain in-town each week.
Growing up in a Hmong family that practiced shamanism accustomed Mai Der Vang to seeing things in both a literal and figurative way at the same time.
Featuring a variety of artists, mediums, and subject matter, from the abstract to the figurative, the sculptures make a stroll through the gardens a time for reflection, examination, and relaxation.
That answer was incredible, in both the literal and figurative senses.
It was made of sheets of white rectangular foam glued together and featured a small figurative metal head of a warrior stuffed between the layers.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'figurative.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Did You Know?
Words and phrases can have both literal and figurative meanings, and we all use words with both kinds of meanings every day of our lives. We can literally close the door to a room, or we can figuratively close the door to further negotiations—that is, refuse to take part in them. Figurative language includes figures of speech, such as similes ("she's been like a sister to me") and metaphors ("a storm of protest"). And sometimes it's hard to tell whether a phrase is literal or figurative: If I say I "picked up" a little Spanish in Mexico, is that literal or figurative? You've probably noticed that lots of the definitions in this book show both a literal meaning (often something physical) and a figurative meaning (often nonphysical).
First Known Use of figurative
FIGURATIVE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of figurative for English Language Learners
of words, language, etc. : used with a meaning that is different from the basic meaning and that expresses an idea in an interesting way by using language that usually describes something else : not literal
: showing people and things in a way that resembles how they really look : not abstract
FIGURATIVE Defined for Kids
Definition of figurative for Students
: expressing one thing in terms normally used for another The word “foot” is figurative in “the foot of the mountain.”
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up figurative? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).