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Updated on November 30, 2014


[MET a for] is a form of expression, not using like or as, in which a quality or characteristic is given to a person or thing by using a name, image, adjective etc normally used for something else which has similar qualities.

Metaphor is frequently used in literature, especially in poetry, where with few words, emotions and associations from one subject are associated with a different subject.

At its most basic, metaphor is one thing standing for another.

Art: Abstract - Red Rose

Metaphor Types - Good things come in threes!

  1. The DESCRIPTIVE METAPHOR speaks of something concrete by referring to something else concrete. Take for example: His face was a rusted out car with parts missing.
  2. The ABSTRACT METAPHOR explains an idea or concept by comparing it to something more concrete. For example: My cup runneth over.
  3. The EMBEDDED METAPHOR uses a verb or a noun in a non-literal fashion. For example: The storm barged into the town and bullied its way through.

Metaphor can be

the connecting of two nouns

by comparing one noun

to the other.


Tom is a many faceted diamond


by Vernon Scannell

That one small boy with a face like pallid cheese

And burnt-out little eyes could make a blaze

As brazen, fierce and huge, as red and gold

And zany yellow as the one that spoiled

Three thousand guineas' worth of property

And crops at Godwin's Farm on Saturday

Is frightening---as fact and metaphor:

An ordinary match intended for

The lighting of a pipe or kitchen fire

Misused may set a whole menagerie

Of flame-fanged tigers roaring hungrily.

And frightening, too, that one small boy should set

The sky on fire and choke the stars to heat

Such skinny limbs and such a little heart

Which would have been content with one warm kiss

Had there been anyone to offer this.

Examples of Metaphors

  • "The rain came down in long knitting needles."

    ~ Enid Bagnold ~

    from National Velvet

  • "Between the lower east side tenements the sky is a snotty handkerchief."

    ~ Marge Piercy ~

    from The Butt of Winter

  • "All the world's a stage,

    And all the men and women merely players

    They have their exits and their entrances"

    ~ William Shakespeare ~

  • "He wore me down"

    "I'm dead tired"

    "She's the apple of my eye"

    "I'm heartbroken"

    "Strong as an ox"

    ~ everyone ~

  • "Life's a journey not a destination

    And I just can't tell just what tomorrow brings."

    ~ Aerosmith ~

  • "Love is a homeless guy searching for treasure in the middle of the rain and finding a bag of gold coins and slowly finding out they're all filled with chocolate and even though he's heart broken, he can't complain because he was hungry in the first place."

    ~ Bo Burnham ~

    "Love Is"

  • "Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food."~ Austin O'Malley ~

Practice Making Metaphors

its fun!

If you are not used to thinking in terms of metaphors, forget writing sentences for now and start by making comparisons.

For example:

1. the brain's amygdala >>> pit in a peach

2. backyard swimming pool >>> lake of the fairies

3. Mocha Joe (my cat) >>> old soul with fur

4. going to work >>> jumping down a rabbit hole

Metaphors make it easier to think about or understand something


by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

In Greek, metaphor meant

"to carry something across"

or "transfer"

Metaphor Quotes

I heard my name associated with the Peter Pan syndrome more than once. But really, what's so wrong with Peter Pan? Peter Pan flies. He is a metaphor for dreams and faith.

~ Mark Burnett ~

God is a metaphor for that which trancends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.

~ Joseph Campbell ~

A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas - a place where history comes to life.

~Norman Cousins ~

I'm not interested in a film about golf but I am interested in golf as a metaphor.

~ Robert Redford ~

In this metaphor we actually have a picture of the computational universe, a metaphor which I hope to make scientifically precise as part of a research program.

~ Seth Lloyd ~

If we are a metaphor of the universe, the human couple is the metaphor par excellence, the point of intersection of all forces and the seed of all forms. The couple is time recaptured, the return to the time before time.

~ Octavio Paz ~

We didn't have metaphors in my day. We didn't beat about the bush.

~ Trueman, Fred ~ (Frederick Sewards)

The metaphor is perhaps one of man's most fruitful potentialities. Its efficacy verges on magic, and it seems a tool for creation which God forgot inside one of His creatures when He made him.

~ Jose Ortega Y Gasset ~

Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.

~ Orson Scott Card ~

Thinking Metaphorically 1

an intuitive way . . .


1. Think of something/someone you want to describe.

2. Relax, tell "the universe" you need a metaphor, let you mind wander. (patience!)

3. What words, sound or images come to you.

4. Use the words, sound or images as a comparison to what you are describing.


1. I want to describe what "type A" Tom is like to someone else.

2. Relax . . . I need a metaphor . . . Tom . . . mind wanders wanders. . .

3. Music called Flight of the Bumblebee comes to mind.

4. Tom is an erratic bee that never lands on one flower very long.

Movies as Metaphors - just a few . . .

American Beauty (1999)
American Beauty (1999)

This is, as the title suggests, a film about beauty, about seeing the inner beauty of other people, indeed seeing beauty in everything. As two characters tell us, there is so much beauty that sometimes our hearts feel like they are going to burst. The richness of the ideas here, however, go much deeper than this.


Good metaphors open our mind to new ways of thinking about something.

Thinking Metaphorically 2

finding qualities . . .

1. Let's say you want to describe a storm that caused considerable damage.

2. What words would describe the storm if it were a person, or something else?

3. Bully, enraged, tantrum, charging bull, explosion, whirling dervish, intruder, etc.

4. Use the words in #3 to describe the storm (without using like, or as, of course).


1. The sudden storm bullied its way into town and threw a tantrum.

2. There was an explosion of sound and enraged winds screamed through the city.

3. A herd of dark clouds charged from the north, followed by trampling winds.

The Muffler

by J Brehmer-Marshall

It muffles our activity

when deep,

mutes our boots and tire treads

(but squeaks),

shawl draped over the stark of trees

at sleep,

wraps our homes with ivory scarves

on eves.


Science is all metaphor.

~ Timothy Francis Leary ~

Thinking Metaphorically 3

use your senses . . .

1. Let's say you want metaphors for a rain shower in May.

2. Check in with your 5 senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound.

3. Ask yourself what the rain shower looks like, or tastes like, etc.

4. Your answers can be from experience or from your imagination.


1. The neighborhood became an impressionistic painting.

2. It was so refreshing I breathed in forgiveness.

3. I put out my tongue and tasted childhood.

4. As I walked I was massaged by nature.

5. I woke and heard a brush swooshing around a snare drum.

Metaphoric Relatives - i.e., other figures of speech

  • SIMILE: A simile is a type of metaphor that shows something is similar to something else by using the words "like" or "as." For example: In her manner and movements she looked like like a rabbit.
  • HYPERBOLE: A hyperbole is an exaggeration so big, no one could possible take it literally. For example: It was so hot outside, out skin was drippin' off us.
  • UNDERSTATEMENT: An understatement expresses something by under-emphasizing the extent to which something might be true.It is the opposite of hyperbole and frequently used for its comedic value. For example: Joan had been lost in the woods for 3 days. When found the park ranger asked if she wanted to eat something. Joan says, "Maybe a carrot or two."
  • IRONY: Irony is something meaning the opposite of what it literally means. For example: You locked your car keys in the car with the motor running and shout, "This is my lucky day."
  • SYNECDOCHE: Synecdoche is where part of something represents the whole thing. For example: Man does not live by bread alone. Another example is: All hands on deck!
  • METONYMY: In metonymy some quality or attribute of what's being described is used to indicate the whole. For example, when referring to royalty people often use the word "crown."

before you go . . .

If you like this lens please click the thumbs up icon - you'll find it at the top, and the foot, of this page.

Mending Wall

by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,

But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father's saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'

Comments Are Welcome - and I mean that literally!

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      this really helped with my english h/w thanks

    • BSieracki profile image


      7 years ago from Corbin, KY

      good quotes

    • DuaneJ profile image


      7 years ago

      Enjoyed this being a poet myself...well done!

    • james g pete profile image

      james g pete 

      7 years ago

      Love the lens, love your guiding hand,

      love Tom the punching bag,

      the metaphoric man.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I read something recently that said metaphors have become so ubiquitous they have become an umbrella term

    • kwj profile image


      7 years ago

      I think my bees are a metaphor for how to live in harmony with nature.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      super lens, love the new metaphors I have learned about here and you chose some really cool images that make your lens awesome! THUMBS UP!

    • ZablonMukuba profile image


      8 years ago

      this is something great and very original

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is a really beautiful lens I like it a lot


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