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 Mumford>b : 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”>
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).