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Eastern Washington University

Figurative Language

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Imagery is a writer’s use of descriptive language that draws on the senses to create a “mental picture” that heightens the reader’s understanding of the work.

sight, smell, taste, sound, touch


Personification is the linguistic portrayal of non-human objects or beings with distinctly human traits.

sun wearing sunglasses

Other linguistic devices

Onomatopoeia -> Bang! Crack! The lightning struck the shed.

Hyperbole -> I was so hungry I could have eaten a horse.

Alliteration -> Mei made a marvelous meal.

Cliché -> Laughter is the best medicine.

Idiom -> He has a real chip on his shoulder.

Metonymy -> The pen is mightier than the sword.

Paradox -> jumbo shrimp

Pun -> Where do you find giant snails? On the ends of giants’ fingers.

Synecdoche -> Music is my bread and butter.

for further study...

For more information on figurative language, and for practice with these linguistic tools, see Purdue OWL Metaphor, Purdue OWL Creative Writing, Figurative Language.

Figurative Language

Figurative language is a broad term that encompasses a host of ways to write creatively. Figurative use of language is the use of words or phrases that depart from literal meaning to achieve fresh, image-driven, and heightened meaning.simile, oxymoron, idiom, hyperbole, alliteration, pun, onomatopoeia, metaphor

Metaphor & Simile

Metaphor is a kind of analogy that compares two unrelated subjects by asserting that in the described way, subject A is subject B.

Simile is a kind of analogy that uses a connective such as “like” or “as” to compare two unrelated subjects.Metaphor: you're a weasel. Simile: well, I'm like one