A symbolic problem: Literally vs. Figuratively

The difference between these two words is one of apples and oranges, figuratively speaking that is.

Literally means “actually” and “without exaggeration.” To wit: When I told him to go fly a kite, I didn’t mean for him to literally do it.

Literally is overused these days, primarily because it’s become an intensifier, as in I was literally on fire. Arguably, it’s also misused, for literally as an intensifier virtually means the opposite of “actually” and “without exaggeration.”

When literally is used as an intensifier, the speaker probably should have used figuratively.

Figuratively means something is “metaphorical,” as in The wildfire figuratively cast a shadow over the holidays.

So remember – when using these two words don’t literally mix up your apples and oranges!