figurative

adjective
fig·​u·​ra·​tive | \ ˈfi-g(y)ə-rə-tiv How to pronounce figurative (audio) \

Definition of figurative

1a : representing by a figure or resemblance : emblematic the figurative dove of peace
b : of or relating to representation of form or figure in art figurative sculpture
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 Mumford
b : characterized by figures of speech a figurative description

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Other Words from figurative

figurativeness noun

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).

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 on the Web The storm was just a drizzle, literal and figurative. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Welcome to the Trump defense team’s impeachment trial nightmare," 1 Feb. 2020 Kerr doesn’t like taking figurative punches to the face every night. Gary Washburn, BostonGlobe.com, "For injury-riddled Warriors, it’s wait until next year," 31 Jan. 2020 This new practice of manipulation to create alternate visual narratives signaled a shift from earlier forays into wholesale abstraction and figurative painting. Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, The New York Review of Books, "Romare Bearden: Assembling America," 28 Jan. 2020 Art, inside and outside, seems to help, including figurative sculptures resembling huge heads by Ugo Rondinone, a sculpture of a strolling girl by Donald Baechler and that curvaceous slide, from Carsten Höller. New York Times, "Dying Malls? This One Has Found a Way to Thrive," 14 Jan. 2020 Equinox was created by three Loveland residents – figurative sculptor Jack Kreutzer, structural engineer and artist Doug Rutledge, and artist and philanthropist Doug Erion – and was inspired by the art of Arapaho and Cheyenne Plains Indians. USA TODAY, "MLK, robot unemployment, Python Bowl: News from around our 50 states," 14 Jan. 2020 Literal human beings will be the figurative guinea pigs—around 2000 of them eventually, Toyota says. Joey Capparella, Car and Driver, "Toyota Will Build a Creepy Private City Full of Robots and Autonomous Vehicles," 6 Jan. 2020 French designer Isabel Marant’s invitation was a metal whistle on a long blue cord, while Celine sent out a hardback A4 size book with pages that tore out to reveal figurative wood and metal sculptures that are displayed in the house flagship store. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Quirks and provocations define Paris Fashion Week shows," 25 Sep. 2019 French designer Isabel Marant’s invitation was a metal whistle on a long blue cord, while Celine sent out a hardback A4 size book with pages that tore out to reveal figurative wood and metal sculptures that are displayed in the house flagship store. Washington Post, "Quirks and provocations define Paris Fashion Week shows," 25 Sep. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of figurative

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for figurative

Middle English figuratif "representing symbolically," from Medieval Latin figūrātīvus, from Latin figūrātus, past participle of figūrāre "to shape, make a likeness of, represent" + -īvus -ive — more at figure entry 2

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Time Traveler for figurative

Time Traveler

The first known use of figurative was in the 14th century

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Statistics for figurative

Last Updated

20 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Figurative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/figurative. Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for figurative

figurative

adjective
How to pronounce figurative (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of figurative

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

adjective
fig·​u·​ra·​tive | \ ˈfi-gyə-rə-tiv How to pronounce figurative (audio) \

Kids Definition of figurative

: expressing one thing in terms normally used for another The word “foot” is figurative in “the foot of the mountain.”

Other Words from figurative

figuratively adverb

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Comments on figurative

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