Dictionary.com Word FAQs
What is the difference between literally and figuratively?
Literally means 'with truth to the letter; exactly' or according to the strictest sense of the word or words. Figuratively means 'by or as a figure of speech; metaphorically', or 'in a descriptive, analogous, but metaphorical sense of the word or words'. So, you can say: He is literally six-feet four-inches tall. By that, you are saying: He is actually six-feet four-inches tall. For figuratively you could say: I feel figuratively dead from overwork. By that, you are saying: I feel dead in a metaphorical sense from overwork. Few words in the English language are misused as much as literally. It means 'in a literal sense ... not imaginatively, figuratively, or freely'. Sometimes, people use bad metaphors and try to justify them by the improper use of literally. It is also possible to express great emphasis by using the phrase literally and figuratively!