from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Based on or making use of figures of speech; metaphorical: figurative language.
  • adj. Containing many figures of speech; ornate.
  • adj. Represented by a figure or resemblance; symbolic or emblematic.
  • adj. Of or relating to artistic representation by means of animal or human figures.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Metaphorical or tropical, as opposed to literal; using figures; as of the use of "cats and dogs" in the phrase "It's raining cats and dogs".
  • adj. Metaphorically so called
  • adj. With many figures of speech
  • adj. Emblematic

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Representing by a figure, or by resemblance; typical; representative.
  • adj. Used in a sense that is tropical, as a metaphor; not literal; -- applied to words and expressions.
  • adj. Abounding in figures of speech; flowery; florid.
  • adj. Relating to the representation of form or figure by drawing, carving, etc. See Figure, n., 2.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Representing by means of a figure; manifesting or suggesting by resemblance; typical; emblematic.
  • Of the nature of or involving a figure of rhetoric; used in a metaphorical or tropical sense; metaphorical; not literal.
  • Abounding with figures of speech; ornate; flowery; florid: as, a description highly figurative.
  • In music, same as figurate, 3.
  • In geometry, at infinity.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. (used of the meanings of words or text) not literal; using figures of speech
  • adj. consisting of or forming human or animal figures


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • If we inquire for those texts of Scripture which represent the earth as the immovable center of the universe, we shall be referred to the figurative language of the Psalms, the book of Job, and other poetical parts of Scripture, which speak of the "foundations of the earth," "the earth being established," "abiding for ever," and the like, when the slightest attention to the language would show _that it is intended to be figurative_.

    Fables of Infidelity and Facts of Faith Being an Examination of the Evidences of Infidelity

  • The two main figurative mosaics upon the ambo depict Jonah and the whale, with the one side showing his being swallowed by the whale, and the other, his being released -- Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him [Jesus], saying: Master, we would see a sign from thee.

    Ambos, or Ambones

  • You mean the government that enslaved and brutalized blacks, kept women in figurative shackles, founded more than one unnecessary war on falsehoods, detained innocents without charge (sometimes torturing them to the point of death) for years, loosed trigger-happy mercenaries on innocent civilians ...?

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Chemical Weapons in my Neighborhood

  • In segregating out figuration, what I'm suggesting is that the operation at play in figurative language -- metaphor and metonym -- needs to be distinguished from both literal reference-making (mimesis) and abstract pattern-making (autotelesis), understood as discretely purposed.

    Archive 2008-08-01

  • It took me awhile to grasp that you meant slaughtered English in figurative terms.

    Think Progress » White House In Disarray: Contradicting Snow, Gonzales Says Bush Opposes Making English The National Language

  • But these things are here foretold, as usual, in figurative expressions, which we are not to look for the literal accomplishment of, and yet they might be fulfilled nearer the letter than we know of.

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume IV (Isaiah to Malachi)

  • The decays and infirmities of old age are here elegantly described in figurative expressions, which have some difficulty in them to us now, who are not acquainted with the common phrases and metaphors used in Solomon's age and language; but the general scope is plain -- to show how uncomfortable, generally, the days of old age are.

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume III (Job to Song of Solomon)

  • Needless to say, in giving the term a figurative meaning as well, locals take up the challenge admirably.

  • Namely, loan can’t be used in figurative contexts:

    loan is a verb! « Motivated Grammar

  • The only difference between the verbs loan and lend is that loan can’t be used in figurative senses.

    loan is a verb! « Motivated Grammar


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