English

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Etymology

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figurative +‎ -ly

Adverb

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figuratively (comparative more figuratively, superlative most figuratively)

  1. (manner) In a figurative manner.
    Synonyms: nonliterally, literally
    • 1864, Robert Swinhoe, “Notes on the Island of Formosa.”, in The Journal of the Royal Geographic Society of London[1], volume XXXIV, London: John Murray, published 1865, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 6:
      TAIWAN, or Chinese Formosa, is considered a Foo or district of the province of Fokien, and is governed by a Taoutai extraordinary, who, though responsible to the provincial viceroy, possesses the privilege of memorialising the Throne direct. “The district of Taiwan,” says the Chinese Government Chart, of which a copy was supplied to me by the Formosan authorities, “is bounded in the rear by mountains, and in front by the sea. The ancestral hills of Formosa derive their origin from the Woo-hoo-mun (Five Tiger Gate), the entrance to Foochow, whence they glided across the sea. In the ocean towards the east are two places called Tungkwan (Damp Limit) and Pih-mow (White Acre), which mark the spots where the dragons of the Formosan hills emerged. These sacred reptiles had pierced unseen the depths of ocean, and announcing their ascent to the surface by throwing up the bluff at Kelung-head, by a number of violent contortions heaved up the regular series of hills, valleys, and plains that extend north and south in varied undulations for the space of 1000 leagues (applied figuratively). The mountain-peaks are too multitudinous to enumerate, and the geography of the island too comprehensive to take into present consideration ; we will therefore confine ourselves to a few general remarks. In rear of the hills, eastward, flows the ocean ; facing them, to the westward, is the sea ; and between lies the prefecture of Taiwan.”
    • 1897 Easton's Bible Dictionary available on Wikisource
      Shepherd A word naturally of frequent occurrence in Scripture. [] This word is used figuratively to represent the relation of rulers to their subjects and of God to his people.
  2. (as a sentence adverb) Used to indicate that what follows is to be taken as a figure of speech, not literally.
    Figuratively, the cat was out of the bag.

Antonyms

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Coordinate terms

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Translations

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