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

Definition of figuratively

: in a figurative way: such as
a : with a meaning that is metaphorical rather than literal Speaking of panic, I recently ran into (figuratively, not literally) a friend who was ranting about giant "bees" digging holes in his lawn.— Ron Kujawski Poor small-town America. During the last gasps of this fevered election, pollsters, zealous campaign foot soldiers and reporters are kicking down its doors, figuratively speaking …— Doug Colligan
b : in a way intended to represent the form or figure of something or someone having objective reality : in a way that is not purely abstract Franz Kline, who had always painted figuratively, made his breakthrough in 1949 when he looked at one of his sketches in a Bell-Opticon magnifier, and saw the rough, thrusting horizontals and verticals that became the basis of his new abstract style.— Calvin Tomkins

First Known Use of figuratively

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

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Cite this Entry

“Figuratively.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of figuratively

: in a figurative way : with a meaning that is different from the basic or literal meaning and that expresses an idea by using language that usually describes something else

More from Merriam-Webster on figuratively

Nglish: Translation of figuratively for Spanish Speakers


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