The adverb figuratively describes something symbolic, not actual. If a friend invites you to tonight's concert but you already have plans with your family, you might say — figuratively — that your hands are tied.

Something that's said figuratively isn't intended to be taken as the literal truth, but as a symbol of something, or as emphasis. Figures of speech are good examples of things people say figuratively, like "the book begged to be read," or "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse" — not meant to be understood literally (you really don't want to eat that horse, do you?). The Latin word figurare, "to form or fashion," is the root of figuratively.

Definitions of figuratively
  1. adverb
    in a figurative sense
    figuratively speaking,...”
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    in a literal sense
Commonly confused words

figuratively / literally

Figuratively means metaphorically, and literally describes something that actually happened. If you say that a guitar solo literally blew your head off, your head should not be attached to your body.

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