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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
figure of speech
▪ He said he used the phrase as a figure of speech, and did not mean to imply she was a coward.
▪ A: It was a figure of speech, sir.
▪ And this, Marcy Lupino knew, was not a figure of speech.
▪ But how could you begin to verify the fact of reincarnation, except as a figure of speech?
▪ I found this word in the dictionary meant an obscure figure of speech.
▪ The word means an obscure figure of speech.
The Collaborative International Dictionary
figure of speech

Figure \Fig"ure\ (f[i^]g"[-u]r; 135), n. [F., figure, L. figura; akin to fingere to form, shape, feign. See Feign.]

  1. The form of anything; shape; outline; appearance.

    Flowers have all exquisite figures.

  2. The representation of any form, as by drawing, painting, modeling, carving, embroidering, etc.; especially, a representation of the human body; as, a figure in bronze; a figure cut in marble.

    A coin that bears the figure of an angel.

  3. A pattern in cloth, paper, or other manufactured article; a design wrought out in a fabric; as, the muslin was of a pretty figure.

  4. (Geom.) A diagram or drawing, made to represent a magnitude or the relation of two or more magnitudes; a surface or space inclosed on all sides; -- called superficial when inclosed by lines, and solid when inclosed by surfaces; any arrangement made up of points, lines, angles, surfaces, etc.

  5. The appearance or impression made by the conduct or career of a person; as, a sorry figure.

    I made some figure there.

    Gentlemen of the best figure in the county.

  6. Distinguished appearance; magnificence; conspicuous representation; splendor; show.

    That he may live in figure and indulgence.

  7. A character or symbol representing a number; a numeral; a digit; as, 1, 2,3, etc.

  8. Value, as expressed in numbers; price; as, the goods are estimated or sold at a low figure. [Colloq.]

    With nineteen thousand a year at the very lowest figure.

  9. A person, thing, or action, conceived of as analogous to another person, thing, or action, of which it thus becomes a type or representative.

    Who is the figure of Him that was to come.
    --Rom. v. 14.

  10. (Rhet.) A mode of expressing abstract or immaterial ideas by words which suggest pictures or images from the physical world; pictorial language; a trope; hence, any deviation from the plainest form of statement. Also called a figure of speech.

    To represent the imagination under the figure of a wing.

  11. (Logic) The form of a syllogism with respect to the relative position of the middle term.

  12. (Dancing) Any one of the several regular steps or movements made by a dancer.

  13. (Astrol.) A horoscope; the diagram of the aspects of the astrological houses.

  14. (Music)

    1. Any short succession of notes, either as melody or as a group of chords, which produce a single complete and distinct impression.

    2. A form of melody or accompaniment kept up through a strain or passage; a musical phrase or motive; a florid embellishment.

      Note: Figures are often written upon the staff in music to denote the kind of measure. They are usually in the form of a fraction, the upper figure showing how many notes of the kind indicated by the lower are contained in one measure or bar. Thus, 2/4 signifies that the measure contains two quarter notes. The following are the principal figures used for this purpose: -- 2/22/42/8 4/22/44/8 3/23/43/8 6/46/46/8

      Academy figure, Canceled figures, Lay figure, etc. See under Academy, Cancel, Lay, etc.

      Figure caster, or Figure flinger, an astrologer. ``This figure caster.''

      Figure flinging, the practice of astrology.

      Figure-of-eight knot, a knot shaped like the figure 8. See Illust. under Knot.

      Figure painting, a picture of the human figure, or the act or art of depicting the human figure.

      Figure stone (Min.), agalmatolite.

      Figure weaving, the art or process of weaving figured fabrics.

      To cut a figure, to make a display. [Colloq.]
      --Sir W. Scott.

figure of speech

n. (context idiomatic English) A word or phrase that departs from straightforward, literal language.

figure of speech

n. language used in a figurative or nonliteral sense [syn: trope, figure, image]

Figure of speech

A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is figurative language in the form of a single word or phrase. It can be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words. There are five main figures of speech: simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification and synecdoche. Figures of speech often provide emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity. However, clarity may also suffer from their use, as any figure of speech introduces an ambiguity between literal and figurative interpretation.

Usage examples of "figure of speech".

Maybe it was only a figure of speech, an old tale spun by the palace servants to pass the time.

Now, all at once, the gossip acquired solid flesh-a figure of speech almost inevitable when looking toward the rotund frame of Secretary Mallory.

Viridovix had meant it as a figure of speech, but suddenly wondered if it were not truth.

For a moment, the idea contained in the figure of speech staggered him, and then he was ripping away the concealing vines and dropping into the hole, reaching for a small plate pinned to an unharmed section nearby.

She watched the girl blush, as she always did, at the figure of speech, peculiar to the female Marine Corps, which stood for those parts of her anatomy she intended giving a cursory rinse.

And this, it seems, is the teaching left us by Saint Thomas, the greatest of all doctors: the more openly it remains a figure of speech, the more it is a dissimilar similitude and not literal, the more a meta­.

The concept 'ghost' is one I feel no need for, other than as a figure of speech.