225 Figurative Language Examples with Free Printable

Children can often find it challenging to grasp the concept of figurative language. This is because it involves using words or expressions in a way that differs from their literal interpretation.

Understanding figurative language requires a certain level of cognitive development and linguistic understanding, which children are still developing.

Use our free printable, Figuratively Speaking, The Fun Side Of The English Language to show your kids some figurative language examples and help them nail this literary concept.

figurative language examples

What Is Figurative Language?

Figurative language is a type of language that deviates from the literal definition of words to achieve a more complex or powerful effect.

A literary device uses words in non-literal ways, making the language richer and more vivid. Figurative language provides new insights, deepens understanding, and makes the text more interesting.

“A heart of stone,” for example, doesn’t mean a literal heart made of rock. It’s an indirect reference to someone who may not show much if any,  human emotions.

Types of Figurative Language

There are nine main forms of figurative language. You can learn more and read some figurative language examples of each of the following types below.

  • Allusion
  • Hyperbole
  • Idiom
  • Metaphor
  • Metonymy
  • Personification
  • Simile
  • Symbolism
  • Synecdoche

Why Use Figurative Language?

Figurative language is widely used in everyday speech and writing, from common expressions to creative writing and even cover letters. Its use enhances communication skills by conveying complex ideas in fewer words and creating vivid imagery in the reader’s mind.

Figurative Language Examples

Let’s define different types of figurative language and take a look at some examples of figurative language to help you better understand.


Allusion is a term in literature or any form of writing where the author indirectly refers to something. It could be a person, place, event, or even another piece of literature.

Think of it as a subtle hint or a nudge towards something without directly stating it. This technique makes the work deeper and more complex as it as it draws on the reader’s knowledge and understanding of what is being alluded to.

Allusion Examples

  • He’s a real Romeo: This is a reference to the character Romeo from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it means someone who is romantic or passionate.
  • Don’t act like a Scrooge: This points to Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, suggesting someone is being miserly or ungenerous.
  • She has the patience of Job: This refers to the Biblical figure Job, known for his endurance and patience in the face of suffering, it means she is very patient.
  • This place is like a Garden of Eden: An allusion to the perfect world God created as the beginning of time, suggesting a place of perfect happiness and contentment.
  • That man is so narcissistic, he must be looking at his reflection all day: Referring to the Greek mythological character Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection, indicating extreme vanity.
  • Her words were as soothing as a Siren’s song: Alluding to the Sirens in Greek mythology whose enchanting songs led sailors astray, suggesting her words are persuasive or calming.
  • He’s got an Achilles heel for sweets: An allusion to the Greek hero Achilles who was invincible except for his heel, implying a weakness or vulnerability.
  • This project is our Trojan Horse: Referring to the wooden horse used by the Greeks to enter Troy covertly, indicating a strategy intended to undermine an opponent from within.
  • She has Pandora’s box of problems: Alluding to Pandora from Greek mythology who was said to have released all evils into the world by opening a forbidden box, suggesting she has many troubles.
  • You’re carrying the weight of Atlas on your shoulders: A reference to the Titan Atlas who held up the sky in Greek mythology, implying a heavy burden or responsibility.
  • He’s a regular Einstein: An allusion to the famous physicist Albert Einstein, suggesting someone is very intelligent.
  • She’s got a Mona Lisa smile: Referring to the enigmatic smile of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, implying a mysterious or hard-to-understand expression.
  • He has Herculean strength: An allusion to Hercules, the Roman hero known for his exceptional strength, indicating great physical power.
  • They parted like the Red Sea: A Biblical allusion to God’s miraculous parting of the Red Sea. It indicates something separated in such an extraordinary way that it was almost like a miracle.
  • This situation is a real Catch-22: Referring to Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, indicating an unsolvable dilemma or paradox.
  • She sings like a nightingale: An allusion to the bird known for its beautiful song, implying a beautiful singing voice.
  • He’s as cunning as a fox: A common expression referring to the fox, often considered sly or clever in folklore, indicating cleverness or craftiness.
  • She’s as wise as an owl: Alluding to the owl, which is often associated with wisdom in various cultures, suggesting intelligence or wisdom.
  • That was her Achilles’ heel: A reference to Achilles from Greek mythology who was invincible except for his heel, indicating a vulnerability or weak spot.
  • He met his Waterloo: An allusion to the Battle of Waterloo where Napoleon was defeated, suggesting a decisive or crushing defeat.
  • He’s a Good Samaritan: Referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, indicating someone who helps others selflessly.
  • She’s as rich as Croesus: An allusion to the legendary wealth of Croesus, the king of Lydia, suggesting great wealth.
  • It’s a David and Goliath situation: A Biblical reference to the story of the small shepherd boy David defeating the giant warrior Goliath, indicating an underdog facing a much stronger opponent.


Hyperbole is a term used in literature and language to describe an extreme exaggeration or overstatement. It’s like saying something is bigger, better, or more intense than it really is.

For example, if you say “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse,” you’re using hyperbole. You’re not actually going to eat a horse, but you’re using this exaggerated statement to express how extremely hungry you are. Hyperbole is often used for dramatic effect or to emphasize a point.

Examples of Hyperbole

  • I’ve told you a million times: This hyperbole is used to emphasize the feeling of repeatedly saying something, but not literally a million times.
  • I’m so hungry I could eat a horse: This figure of speech implies extreme hunger, not that someone could actually consume an entire horse.
  • He’s as skinny as a toothpick: This literary device exaggerates someone’s thinness and does not mean they’re literally as thin as a toothpick.
  • She cried a river of tears: This use of words suggests someone cried a lot, but not enough to create an actual river.
  • This bag weighs a ton: This hyperbole implies the bag is very heavy, not that it weighs 2,000 pounds.
  • Her brain is the size of a pea: This figure of speech implies someone isn’t smart, not that their brain is literally the size of a pea.
  • His new car cost an arm and a leg: This phrase exaggerates the high cost of something, it doesn’t mean he paid with his limbs.
  • It was so cold, I saw polar bears wearing jackets: This statement emphasizes extreme cold, but polar bears don’t wear jackets.
  • She runs faster than the wind: This type of figurative language means she runs quickly, not that she can outrun the wind.
  • I have a mountain of homework: This hyperbole implies having a lot of homework, not an actual mountain.
  • He’s got tons of money: This everyday speech means he’s wealthy, not that he has money that weighs tons.
  • Your explanation is clearer than mud: This hyperbole implies that the explanation is not clear at all.
  • She was so mad she was breathing fire: This figure of speech suggests extreme anger, not that she can breathe fire.
  • I’m dying of boredom: This literary device is an exaggerated way to express feeling extremely bored.
  • This is the easiest question in the world: This use of words exaggerates how easy the question is; it’s not literally the easiest in the world.
  • He’s as strong as an ox: This hyperbole implies he’s very strong, not that he has the strength of an ox.
  • I’m so tired I could sleep for a year: This figure of speech expresses extreme tiredness, not an actual intention to sleep for a year.
  • This pizza is big enough to feed a small country: This phrase exaggerates the size of the pizza; it can’t actually feed a whole country.
  • You could knock me over with a feather: This type of figurative language means someone is very surprised or shocked, not that a feather could knock them over.
  • It’s raining cats and dogs: This everyday speech means it’s raining heavily, not that animals are falling from the sky.
  • I laughed so hard I thought my belly button was going to unscrew: This hyperbole emphasizes laughter, but one’s belly button can’t unscrew.
  • I have told you this story a thousand times: This figure of speech means repeating a story many times, but not literally a thousand times.
  • This book weighs a ton: This expression exaggerates the heaviness of the book, it doesn’t weigh 2,000 pounds.
  • His eyes were larger than his stomach: This hyperbole implies that someone took more food than they could eat, not that their eyes are literally larger than their stomach.


Idioms are expressions used in everyday language that have a meaning different from the literal interpretation of their individual words.

They are unique to certain cultures or languages and can often seem confusing to those unfamiliar with them. Understanding idioms requires familiarity with the language and culture they originate from, as they often don’t make sense when translated literally.

Examples of Idioms

  • A piece of cake: This idiom is a figure of speech that means something is easy to accomplish.
  • Break a leg: In the English language, this is an example of figurative language used to wish someone good luck in an interesting way, especially before a performance.
  • Kick the bucket: This idiom is used to refer to death in everyday conversations without using the literal language.
  • Let the cat out of the bag: This idiom uses words in a creative way to mean revealing a secret. 
  • Bite the bullet: This is an example of figurative language that conveys a sense of urgency. It means a person bravely faces a difficult or unpleasant situation bravely.
  • Cut corners: This common expression means doing something poorly or cheaply. It’s a form of figurative language used in everyday communication.
  • The ball is in your court: This is an idiom that implies metaphorically that it’s now someone else’s turn to take action. It’s often used in business communication.
  • Barking up the wrong tree: This literary device means accusing the wrong person or pursuing a mistaken or misguided line of thought.
  • Burn the midnight oil: This figurative device means to work late into the night. The phrase creates vivid imagery by comparing late-night work to burning oil for light.
  • Hit the nail on the head: An example of figurative language implying an accurate or precise statement. It’s often used in everyday speech to commend someone for getting something exactly right.
  • Kill two birds with one stone: This idiom means accomplishing two tasks at once with a single action.
  • A penny for your thoughts: A rhetorical device used as an indirect reference asking someone to share their thoughts or feelings.
  • Raining cats and dogs: One of the most common types of figurative language, this idiom means it’s raining heavily. It uses a direct comparison to create a dramatic effect in the reader’s mind.
  • Spill the beans: This figure of speech is used to mean revealing secret information. It’s an example of figurative language that uses everyday items like beans for metaphorical purposes.
  • Steal someone’s thunder: This idiom means to take credit for someone else’s achievements. It’s a creative writing technique using human emotions metaphorically.
  • Through thick and thin: This idiom is used to describe loyalty and steadfastness, especially in difficult times. It’s an example of a simile, comparing different things – ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ to complex situations.
  • Under the weather: This phrase is an example of a metaphor, referring to feeling unwell or sick. It uses a natural element – weather – as an indirect reference to health.
  • Bite off more than you can chew: This common expression means taking on more responsibilities than one can handle. It’s an example of hyperbole, an intentional exaggeration for emphasis.
  • Costs an arm and a leg: This figure of speech implies something is very expensive. It’s an example of hyperbole, using exaggerated physical attributes for dramatic effect.
  • See eye to eye: This idiomatic expression means agreeing with someone. It’s a type of figurative language using human characteristics metaphorically.
  • Heart of stone: This idiom refers to someone who does not show any sympathy, pity, or other warm feelings. It’s an example of personification, attributing human qualities to inanimate objects – in this case, a heart to a stone.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words: This idiomatic expression suggests that complex ideas can be conveyed by a single image. It’s another form of figurative language using implicit comparison between two different forms – words and images.
  • Life is like a box of chocolates: This idiom means that life is full of surprises. It’s an example of a simile, making an explicit comparison between life and a box of chocolates.
  • Put all your eggs in one basket: This idiomatic expression means risking everything on the success of one venture. It’s an example of a metaphor, attributing human qualities to inanimate objects – in this case, eggs to opportunities.


A metaphor is a figurative language technique used to describe something by directly comparing it to something else, even though they’re not literally the same.

It’s like painting a picture with words to help others understand or see things in a new way. For example, if we say “Life is a roller coaster,” we’re using a metaphor. We don’t mean that life is literally a roller coaster, but this comparison helps express the idea that life has ups and downs, twists and turns, just like a roller coaster ride.

Examples of Metaphors

  • Time is money: This metaphorical statement is used to express the value of time. It implies that wasting time is like losing money, and making good use of time can earn a person profits, similar to how one would gain by investing money wisely.
  • Life is a journey: This metaphor suggests that life is a process with its ups and downs, like a journey. It’s often used to imply that we should enjoy the process of living, despite the challenges we might face along the way.
  • She has a heart of stone: This metaphor assigns human qualities to an inanimate object (stone) to illustrate someone’s lack of empathy or emotional hardness.
  • He is a night owl: This metaphor compares a person to a night owl, suggesting that he stays awake and active during the night.
  • Her voice is music to his ears: This metaphor compares a pleasant voice to music, implying that listening to her talk brings joy and pleasure.
  • The world is a stage: This metaphor treats the world as a stage where all of us are actors playing different roles. It signifies that everyone has their part to play in life’s drama.
  • A wave of fear washed over him: Here, fear is compared with a wave, indicating that it engulfed him suddenly and completely.
  • His words were daggers to her heart: This metaphor uses the imagery of daggers to convey the hurtful impact of his words on her emotions.
  • The news was a punch in the gut: This metaphor equates bad news with a physical blow, implying its shocking and painful effect.
  • He drowned in a sea of grief: This metaphor uses the image of drowning in a sea to express overwhelming sadness or despair.
  • Her job was a prison: In this metaphor, a job is compared to a prison, signifying she feels confined or trapped.
  • The sun is a golden ball: Here, the sun is compared to a golden ball, creating vivid imagery and emphasizing its brightness and warmth.
  • His anger is a wild beast: This metaphor compares anger to a wild beast, suggesting it’s uncontrollable and potentially destructive.
  • She is the apple of my eye: This metaphor implies that she is cherished and held dear, just as one would value their eyesight.
  • He has a heart of gold: In this metaphor, a person’s heart is compared to gold, indicating his kindness and generosity.
  • The classroom was a zoo: This metaphor suggests that the classroom was chaotic and uncontrollable like a zoo full of wild animals.
  • His thoughts are a maze: Here, thoughts are compared to a maze, implying confusion or complexity.
  • Hope is a beacon: In this metaphor, hope is likened to a beacon or light source, suggesting it provides guidance in times of darkness or uncertainty.
  • Her mind is an open book: This metaphor indicates that her thoughts and feelings are easy to read or understand, just like an open book.
  • Laughter is the best medicine: This metaphor says that laughter can help heal emotional pain or stress, similar to how some medicine helps heal physical ailments.
  • Their home is a castle: Here, a home is compared to a castle, implying that it’s a place of safety, security, and pride.
  • Her eyes were shining stars: This metaphor likens eyes to stars, emphasizing their brightness and beauty.
  • The car was a furnace in the sun: In this metaphor, the car is compared to a furnace, indicating extreme heat inside it due to exposure to sunlight.
  • His words are pearls of wisdom: This metaphor compares words to pearls, suggesting they’re valuable pieces of advice or insights.
  • Life is a roller coaster: Here, life is compared to a roller coaster ride with its highs and lows, signifying its unpredictability and thrills.


Personification is a creative language tool used in literature and writing where non-human objects or ideas are given human qualities or actions.

This means making an object or idea do something only a human can do. For example, if we say that the sun smiled down on us, we are giving the sun, which is a non-human object, the human ability to smile. This helps make descriptions more vivid and engaging in storytelling.

Examples of Personification

  • The stars danced playfully in the moonlit sky: This personification implies that the stars were twinkling so brightly and rapidly that they appeared to be joyfully dancing in the sky.
  • Time creeps up on you: It means that time passes slowly but surely, and often we are not aware of it until it has passed significantly.
  • The wind sang through the meadows: The personification here is giving the wind a human quality of being able to sing, which paints a vivid imagery of how it sounds as it rustles through the grasses.
  • The sun smiled down on them: This is an example of personification where the sun is given the human trait of smiling, meaning it was a bright, warm, and pleasant day.
  • The flowers danced in the gentle breeze: This phrase gives flowers human characteristics, suggesting they moved lightly and quickly in response to the breeze.
  • My alarm clock yells at me every morning: The alarm clock is personified as a nagging entity, emphasizing its loud and jarring sound that wakes us up.
  • Opportunity knocked on the door: This figure of speech means that there was a chance or opportunity for progress or benefit that came to us.
  • The car complained as the key was roughly turned in its ignition: Here, the car is given the human quality of being able to complain, implying that it’s not starting smoothly or working properly.
  • The ocean danced in the moonlight: By attributing human qualities to the ocean, this phrase provides a more vivid description of sea waves sparkling under moonlight.
  • The cake is calling my name: This type of figurative language describes a strong desire or craving for cake.
  • Lightning danced across the sky: This personification suggests that lightning was moving quickly and unpredictably across the sky much like a dancer would move in a performance.
  • The thunder grumbled like an old man: Here, thunder is given human characteristics, implying it was low and rumbling, much like the grumble of an old man.
  • The moon played hide-and-seek with the clouds: This phrase gives the moon a playful human trait, suggesting that it was intermittently visible as clouds passed by.
  • The tree branches danced in the wind: The personification here implies that the tree branches were swaying back and forth in the wind, much like how a dancer moves.
  • The house stared at me with looming eyes: Here, the house is given human attributes, making it seem as if it’s watching or looming over someone, creating a sense of unease or intimidation.
  • The blizzard swallowed the town: This literary device gives a blizzard the human quality of being able to swallow, implying that the town became completely covered and obscured by heavy snowfall.
  • The candle flame danced upon the wall: The use of personification here suggests that the light from a candle was flickering and casting moving shadows on a wall, much like a dancer would move.
  • The chocolate cake was calling out for me: By giving the cake human emotions, this phrase emphasizes a strong craving or desire for it.
  • The autumn leaves were dancing in the wind: This personification implies that leaves were falling from trees in a swirling motion, creating a visual similar to dancers twirling around.
  • The fire swallowed the entire forest: This figure of speech suggests that a fire consumed an entire forest quickly and entirely, as though it had been swallowed.
  • The car coughed before it started: Here, the car is given human characteristics, suggesting it had trouble starting up initially, similar to how one might cough before speaking.
  • The flowers waltzed in the gentle breeze: By attributing human qualities to flowers, this phrase creates an image of flowers swaying gently back and forth in response to a breeze, much like how dancers waltz.
  • My computer throws a tantrum every time I try to use it: In this example, the computer is personified as a child throwing a tantrum, emphasizing that it’s not working properly or responding to commands.
  • The camera loves her: This is an example of personification where the camera is given the human trait of love, suggesting that she photographs well.
  • The wind whispered secrets in our ear: By giving the wind human qualities, this phrase creates an image of the wind carrying whispers or soft sounds, as if it were communicating with us.


A simile is used to make comparisons. It’s like painting a picture with words by linking two different things using ‘like’ or ‘as’.

For example, if we say “He runs as fast as a cheetah,” we are using a simile to compare someone’s speed to that of a cheetah. It helps to create vivid images in the reader’s mind and make the text more engaging and interesting.

Examples of Similes

  • As busy as a bee: This simile is a type of figurative language that compares someone’s level of activity or work ethic to the industrious nature of a bee, suggesting that they are extremely active and hardworking.
  • As blind as a bat: This figure of speech is used to describe someone who has poor vision, comparing their sight to the supposed blindness of bats. However, it’s not based on literal language as bats aren’t really blind.
  • As bright as a button: This literary device is used in everyday speech to compare someone’s intelligence or alertness to the shiny, noticeable quality of a button.
  • As clear as crystal: This simile provides vivid imagery by comparing clarity – of an idea, explanation, or a literal object – to the transparency of crystal.
  • As cold as ice: This is a common expression that compares something very cold in temperature or demeanor to ice.
  • As cunning as a fox: This figure of speech suggests someone is clever or deceptive by drawing a direct comparison with the known slyness of a fox.
  • As dead as a doornail: This type of figurative language describes something completely unresponsive or inoperative, comparing it to the inanimate nature of a doornail.
  • As easy as pie: Used in everyday conversations, this simile compares something very simple or easy to do to the ease of eating a piece of pie.
  • As fast as lightning: This is an example of figurative language that compares speed to the quickness of lightning for dramatic effect.
  • As gentle as a lamb: A literary work might use this simile to compare someone’s gentle nature with the calm attitude of a lamb.
  • As light as a feather: This figures of speech compares something very lightweight to the negligible weight of a feather.
  • As quiet as a mouse: This simile is an example of personification, attributing the known quietness of a mouse to a human or another object.
  • As strong as an ox: This figure of speech compares physical strength to the known power of an ox, creating a vivid image in the reader’s mind.
  • As stubborn as a mule: This simile draws a comparison between human characteristics, specifically stubbornness, and the renowned obstinacy of mules.
  • As sweet as sugar: This literary device is used to describe someone with a very pleasant personality or something that tastes very sweet.
  • As white as snow: This example of figurative language that provides vivid imagery by comparing something extremely white to the pure whiteness of snow.
  • Fit as a fiddle: This is an indirect reference to someone being in good health, comparing their condition to the prime state of a well-tuned fiddle.
  • Slept like a log: This simile compares deep, undisturbed sleep to the immovability of a log.
  • Eat like a horse: This figure of speech suggests someone eats large amounts of food, comparing their appetite to that of a horse.
  • Cry like a baby: This simile compares excessive crying or emotional outburst to the uncontrollable crying associated with babies.
  • Brave as a lion: Here, bravery is compared to the courage associated with lions in this piece of figurative language.
  • Fresh as a daisy: This figure of speech compares someone or something looking/feeling very fresh to the freshness associated with daisies.
  • Proud as a peacock: This simile makes an implicit comparison between human emotions – specifically pride – and the ostentatious display associated with peacocks.


Symbolism is like a secret code, where one thing represents something else. Think of it as using an object or action to express a deeper meaning or concept.

For example, a heart symbol often represents love, even though it’s just a shape. So, when you see symbolism being used, it’s like the author or artist is giving you a clue to understand a deeper message they want to convey.

Examples of Symbolism

  • The dark forest: In literature, a dark forest often symbolizes the unknown or being lost. It is a complex idea that can represent fear, confusion, and uncertainty.
  • Owls: Owls often symbolize wisdom or knowledge. 
  • The color red: The color red can symbolize different things depending on the context. It can represent love, danger, power, or passion.
  • Dawn: Dawn is a common symbol used in literature and everyday speech to represent new beginnings or hope.
  • The moon: The moon is often used to symbolize femininity, cycles, change, or time passing.
  • Roses: Roses are a universal symbol of love and beauty but can also represent complexity or a journey since roses have layers and thorns.
  • Crossroads: Crossroads often symbolize decision points or moments of change in one’s life.
  • Rain: Rain can be symbolic of sadness, cleansing, or renewal.
  • The ocean: In literature, the ocean often represents the subconscious mind or the unknown.
  • Winter: Winter is frequently used as a symbol for death or the end of something, which sets it up for new growth (spring).
  • The sun: The sun is usually seen as a symbol of life-giving energy, light, and warmth.
  • Mirrors: Mirrors are often used as symbols of truth and self-reflection.
  • Birds: Birds are commonly used to symbolize freedom due to their ability to fly and roam freely.
  • Fire: Fire is a powerful symbol that can represent destruction but also transformation and purification.
  • Chains: Chains are often symbolic of imprisonment or oppression.
  • Rivers: Rivers can be symbolic of life’s journey, movement or the passage of time.
  • Bridges: Bridges often symbolize transitions, connections between two points, or overcoming obstacles.
  • Mountains: Mountains can symbolize challenges, obstacles in life that need to be overcome, or spiritual ascent.
  • Deserts: Deserts often symbolize isolation, emptiness or being lost.
  • Snakes: Snakes are often used to symbolize danger, deceit, or transformation due to their ability to shed their skin.
  • Lighthouses: Lighthouses can symbolize guidance, protection or a beacon of hope in dark times.
  • The color green: The color green often symbolizes nature, growth, money, and renewal.
  • Butterflies: Butterflies are often used as symbols of transformation or change due to their life cycle.
  • Stars: Stars can symbolize guidance (navigation), hope, or ambition.
  • Apples: Apples can be symbolic of knowledge, temptation, or bounty.


Metonymy is a type of figurative language where a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something closely associated with it.

For example, when we say “The White House announced…” we’re not literally talking about the building itself making an announcement, but the people who work there, specifically the U.S. President and his administration. So, in this example, “White House” is a metonymy for the U.S. government.

It’s like a shortcut in language that gives us a vivid image or idea without having to explain in detail.

Examples of Metonymy

  • The White House issued a statement: The White House here stands for the people who work in it or the U.S. administration, which is the group of people who manage the work of the U.S. government.
  • Hollywood is producing more sci-fi movies these days: Hollywood is used as a metonymy to represent the American film industry.
  • Wall Street predicts a strong year for tech stocks: Wall Street is used as a substitute for the financial and investment community.
  • He is a man of the cloth: Here, ‘the cloth’ refers to the clergy or people who work in religious service.
  • The pen is mightier than the sword: The pen represents writing and intellectual pursuits, while the sword represents military force or war.
  • We await word from the crown: The crown is used to denote the monarch or royal authority.
  • The kettle is boiling: The kettle refers to the water inside it that’s boiling.
  • Let’s get some new faces in here: Faces stand for people or individuals.
  • He’s behind bars: Bars are used to represent prison.
  • She’s got a lot of mouths to feed: Mouths are used to indicate people who need to be fed, usually family members.
  • The school has excellent scores: School stands for students in this context.
  • The press is not always accurate: Press is used as a replacement for journalists and news organizations.
  • He’s in suits now: Suits refer to the business or corporate world.
  • All hands on deck: Hands stand for sailors or workers.
  • Silicon Valley is hiring again: Silicon Valley is used to represent the tech industry in America.
  • The restaurant has good eats: Eats are used as a substitute for food.
  • Washington has made its decision: Washington stands for the U.S. government.
  • She’s got wheels now: Wheels are used to denote a car or any vehicle.
  • Boots are on the ground: Boots refer to soldiers.
  • The dish ran away with the spoon: The dish and the spoon represent people in this nursery rhyme.
  • The bottle is killing him: Bottle is used as a substitute for alcohol or liquor.
  • He’s the breadwinner of the family: Bread stands for money or livelihood.
  • The classroom was unruly today: Classroom represents the students inside it.
  • I’m going to hit the books: Books are used to denote studying.


Synecdoche refers to a part of something being used to represent the whole, or alternatively, the whole being used to represent a part.

It’s like saying wheels when you mean car – you’re using a part (the wheels) to represent the whole car. Similarly, if someone says “The world isn’t treating me well,” they don’t literally mean the entire world, but rather certain aspects or people in their life.

So, synecdoche is a way of speaking that uses a piece to signify the whole or vice versa.

Examples of Synecdoche

  • The world treated him harshly: The world refers to the people in his life or society in general.
  • Bread for all, and roses too: Bread represents necessary food and sustenance, while roses represent a higher quality of life, including beauty, art, and culture.
  • England decided to keep calm and carry on: Here England is used to represent the decision-makers of the country.
  • She offered her hand in marriage: The hand here stands for the whole person.
  • The brass is not happy about the financial report: In this case, brass refers to high-ranking officers or officials.
  • He’s off to earn his daily bread: Daily bread stands for the necessary food or other means of subsistence.
  • The restaurant has hired new hands: Here hands refer to workers or helpers.
  • The farm has lost two head of cattle: The term head is used to count animals like cattle or sheep.
  • The sails were visible from the shore: The word sails is used as a substitute for ships.
  • They asked for more boots on the ground: Here, boots represent soldiers.
  • She’s the brains of the operation: Brains stand for intelligence or smart planning.
  • He’s the heart of the team: Here, heart symbolizes spirit, courage, or enthusiasm.
  • I have three mouths to feed at home: Mouths are used instead of people who need to be fed.
  • The strings performed beautifully tonight: In this context, strings refer to string instrument players in an orchestra.
  • They are counting heads before starting the meeting: Here, heads mean people present at the meeting.
  • All eyes are on the stage now: Eyes stand for people watching attentively.
  • My wheels are in the shop today: Here, wheels represent a car or vehicle.
  • The silverware is ready for the guests: Silverware refers to cutlery like spoons, forks, and knives.
  • He’s not just a pretty face: Here, pretty face stands for an attractive but perhaps not very intelligent or substantive person.
  • She showed her true colors: Colors represent one’s characteristics or true nature.
  • All ears were on the speaker: Ears stand for people listening attentively.
  • He has a strong arm in politics: Here, arm represents power or influence.
  • The local team needs new legs: Legs refer to players, particularly ones who run a lot like in soccer or basketball.
  • Plastic is destroying our world: Here, plastic symbolizes all non-biodegradable waste or pollution.
  • Our hearts go out to the victims: In this case, hearts represent sympathy or compassion.

What’s the Difference Between Metonymy and Synecdoche?

When you look at the lists of metonymy and synecdoche you may notice they seem similar.  Metonymy and synecdoche are both figures of speech used to create more engaging and vivid language.

They are similar in that they both involve using a word or phrase to represent something else, but there are distinct differences between the two.


Metonymy involves substituting one term for another with which it is closely associated. For example, The White House can be used to represent the President or the administration of the United States. The term crown can be used to refer to a king or queen.


Synecdoche, on the other hand, involves using a part of something to represent the whole or vice versa. For instance, if you say I have four mouths to feed, you’re using mouths as a synecdoche to represent people. Similarly, when we say wheels referring to a car, it’s also a synecdoche.

In summary, while both metonymy and synecdoche involve symbolic representation, metonymy uses association or contiguity, whereas synecdoche uses parts of a whole or vice versa.

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Figuratively Speaking

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