Describing Idioms and Figurative Language



A phrase where the actual meaning differs from the words used. For instance, 'over the moon' means happy.
It's raining cats and dogs.

figure of speech, figurative language


A phrase where the actual meaning differs from the words used; an idiom. For example, 'I'm stuffed' means I am full of food!
Your attitude stinks!

literal, literally

(adjective, adverb)

The opposite of figurative language. If something is literal, there is no special meaning.
He literally has a hundred thousand Facebook friends.


(noun, uncountable)

Non-standard language, often used to identify with a certain group.
Whassup, yo? You chillin' with your peeps?


(noun, uncountable)

Language only understood by someone with technical expertise in a particular field.
The allophonic rule indicates which allophone realizes a phoneme in a given phonemic environment.

colloquialism, colloquial

(noun, adjective)

Non-standard language which is generally used in a specific geographical area.
Australians sometimes call chickens 'chooks'.



Differences in pronunciation style specific to certain geographical areas are called accent.
Water: Americans say 'wadder', but British people say 'watah'.



A simile is a comparative phrase using 'like' or 'as'.
Her eyes shone like diamonds.

metaphor, metaphorical

(noun, adjective)

A description which cannot literally be true.
Her eyes were diamonds, shining at me across the room.

*A metaphor differs from a simile in that the words 'like' or 'as' are not used. A metaphor differs from an idiom in that it may not be a widely used phrase.