When studying Semantic meaning, I got confused about the interpretation of Semantic in such a sentence:

You are as fat as a pig

In such sentences, how should I interpret the Semantic meaning:

As: "You are very fat" or simply "You are as fat as a pig" ?

I think, in my interpretation, semantics opposes to literality.

  • 1
    It's a metaphor. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 14:00
  • 1
    @marcellothearcane a simile, rather than a metaphor, I think. "You are a pig" would be a metaphor. Anyway, the meaning is simply "You are very fat." BTW "Semantic meaning" is redundant, since "semantic" already refers to the meaning of things. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 14:07
  • "Semantic meaning" beats me.
    – Kris
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 14:44
  • If you're trying to distinguish between 'what it means' and 'what it says', then your analysis would be consistent with interpreting the quote idiomatically. However, one doesn't have to interpret the quote idiomatically - it can be interpreted literally, in which case what it means and what it says would be identical.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 15:09
  • 1
    @Haseo It could be either.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 23:05

1 Answer 1


To expand my comment, semantics is simply the meaning of words:

the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. The two main areas are logical semantics, concerned with matters such as sense and reference and presupposition and implication, and lexical semantics, concerned with the analysis of word meanings and relations between them. Source

See this pdf.

Not everything in English is literal - consider humour, irony, sarcasm, personification, similes, and metaphors.

A simile (like your example) is:

a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid (e.g. as brave as a lion). Source

In your example 'You are as fat as a pig' means 'you are very fat', so fat that you resemble a pig. See https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/fat+as+a+pig.

  • 1
    @Haseo a simile is a literary technique, when you compare something with something else, using 'like' or 'as' - for example 'she swam like a fish', or 'he was as *fast *as a greyhound'. Semantics is concerned with the meaning behind this - she isn't actually a fish, and he isn't actually a greyhound, but the similarity has been made for imagery. Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 17:55
  • 1
    @Haseo semantics is the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning, so I presume so (I might be getting confused with pragmatics though) But insofar as I understand it, semantics is the meaning of everything, all the forms of imagery I mentioned and more. Similes and metaphors are merely different types of imagery. Yes, I think that this "embedded meaning" is indeed the semantics... hope this helps and isn't too confusing! Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 18:33
  • 1
    @Haseo 'semantics' not 'semantic'. I don't make the rules, that's just how it is supposed to be.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 19:53
  • 1
    @Haseo You might be much further enlightened if you read the articles on Wikipedia on semantics, pragmatics, and figures of speech. 'Embedded meaning' is not a technical term; you introduced it - do you mean literal meaning or do you mean the intended meaning that is not literal?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 19:58
  • 1
    @Haseo OK then. To clarify your question I think you are asking directly, without all the attempts at technical language, "What does 'You are as fat as a pig.' mean?". The answer is: the meaning is 'You are fat'. Why? Because pigs are generally considered fat, and on the other hand, you don't have a particular pig to compare with. Whether it is literal or non-literal (figurative) is a bit subtle - words (beyond technical ones) are hardly ever exactly entirely literal. The difference between metaphor (as non-literal) and simile ('like a pig') is not very consequential.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 13:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.