fig·​u·​ra·​tive·​ly ˈfi-g(y)ə-rə-tiv-lē How to pronounce figuratively (audio)
: in a figurative way: such as
: 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
: 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

Examples of figuratively in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Amtrak and NJTransit rail lines are literally and figuratively melting down, disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of commuters. Patrick O'Connor, New York Daily News, 9 July 2024 Paramount Pictures: Younger, Hands-on Leadership Ellison has always been a high-flier, literally and figuratively, and remains undeterred in his ambition to make big-budget spectacles — even when things don’t always go well. Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 July 2024 Gray clouds, literally and figuratively, loomed above its first outing Wednesday evening. Dewayne Bevil, Orlando Sentinel, 4 July 2024 Some feel as though the beach is both literally and figuratively being pulled from under them. Kiara Alfonseca, ABC News, 28 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for figuratively 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'figuratively.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near figuratively

Cite this Entry

“Figuratively.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

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