Literally vs Figuratively
It has become common to hear sentences containing words like literally or figuratively to enhance the impact of the statement. These are words that have different meanings, and are used in different contexts too, though, there are many who feel they are similar and use them as synonyms. This article, takes a closer look at these two words to highlight the differences between them.
If you have studied figures of speech, that are used to lace up sentences and also to make them poetic, you know what the use of the word figuratively does to a sentence. It is an exaggeration, and not to be taken literally or seriously. So, if someone has been hurt by an act of someone he loves deeply, and the idiom “split my heart down its seam” just helps the intensity of pain or hurt and does not really mean that the heart has been torn apart (of course it cannot). So, the word figuratively just describes the exaggeration that has been used in the sentence, and also to imply that this exaggeration should not be taken literally or in the strictest sense of the word.
Literally means, really or true in the strictest sense of the word and as such, inclusion of this word adds to the weight of the statement and makes it truer in the eyes of the reader. It adds to the impact of the statement. Literally is not an exaggeration and is actually opposite to figuratively as figuratively makes use of lyrical words to compare something with something else, which it is not. So, if someone is described as having a complexion white like milk, it is spoken figuratively. On the other hand, “we would not have survived without the help from UN, literally” is an example of the use of the word literally emphasizing the importance of help from the UN.
Difference Between Literally and Figuratively
It is vital to know the difference between literally and figuratively before using them in a sentence as otherwise one may use them incorrectly and face embarrassment. Literally means in the strictest sense of the word, true, factual, and without any exaggeration. On the other hand figuratively makes an analogous statement comparing something with something else in such a manner that is not possible.