Definition of figural in US English:



  • 1

    another term for figurative
    • ‘Historically, highlands people did little figural carving, though bows and arrows carved with small geometric motifs were common.’
    • ‘These objects were often decorated with figural motifs including dancing maidens, birds, or baskets of flowers.’
    • ‘Sears continued to win significant prizes for her figural work throughout the decade, but she also began to turn her attention toward another mode of artistic expression-photography.’
    • ‘In this case, internal evidence indicates that the writing, ornament, and figural paintings were all executed by a single hand.’
    • ‘Fading in and out of these plasterlike surfaces are Lee's personal hieroglyphs of drawn and painted figural and insect forms.’
    1. 1.1 (in postmodernist writing) relating to or denoting a form of signification which relies on imagery and association rather than on rational and linguistic concepts.
      • ‘The Paulinian mirror is itself a figure for our inherently figural, mediated apprehension of God, the ultimate Truth.’
      • ‘Various motifs, figural echoes, and symmetries have a fugitive presence in the film: they come and go, never entirely gathering all the fragments into a reassuring whole.’
      • ‘Did you begin with the notion of a ‘sonnet’ sequence and use it as the container into which figural patterns were discharged, or did the writing seem to insist on certain formal conditions as you proceeded and revised?’
      • ‘Our received knowledge is that film is primarily a ‘visual’ medium; ergo, its represented references and appeal to most of our other senses are understood as figural rather than literal.’
      • ‘The texts themselves display a transposition from the literal to the figural levels of discourse.’


Late Middle English: from Old French, or from late Latin figuralis, from figura ‘form, shape’ (see figure).