One of the most frequently used forms of figurative language in the English language is the metaphor. But what is this figure of speech used for and how can it be used in a day-to-day conversation? In this article, we are going to take a look at the answer to both of these questions. We are also going to find out exactly how metaphor looks in a spoken conversation by viewing some examples as well as taking a look at some examples of the use of metaphor as a literary device.
What Is A Metaphor?
As mentioned in the introduction, a metaphor is a form of figurative language. A metaphor is a rhetorical device in which an object, idea or situation is referred to directly as something it is not. It moves away from referring to something in a literal sense, and refers to it as something else in order to create a more imaginative figure of speech and description of something.
When used as a literary device, a metaphor can add a more detailed and complex description to something giving the reader a more in depth experience. A metaphor is more easily able to convey an idea or an emotion than by simply using a literal statement.
Metaphor Examples in Spoken Language
In a day-to-day speech, you are likely to hear the use of metaphors very often. They are a common type of figurative language and can be heard in many types of situations. We are now going to take a look at some examples of sentences that feature metaphors in order to better understand how they are used in a conversation.
- The snow was a blanket of white on the ground.
- Her singing was so good, she was a shining star.
- She cried a river of tears after her father passed away.
- My next-door neighbour is a real old dragon.
- When it comes to eating, he is a pig.
- My sister is a night owl.
- My wife is an old dinosaur.
- You are such a chicken.
- The crocodile had teeth that were white daggers.
- The dancer was a swan.
- He is so clumsy he is a bull a china shop.
- My husband is a sofa hog.
- He is my sunshine.
- The desert is a dry bone.
- The clouds are fluffy cotton candy.
- Her temper is a volcano.
- The grass in the garden is a green carpet.
- The stars are sparkling gems in the sky.
- The sisters are two peas in a pod.
- The solution is just a sticking plaster for the problem.
- The eyes are a window to your soul.
- Last summer, I was boiling hot.
- This is music to my ears.
- Thank you for your help, you are a true angel.
Metaphor Examples for Kids
- Life is a journey.
- The world is a stage.
- Time is a thief.
- Love is a rose.
- Knowledge is power.
- Laughter is medicine.
- The sun is a golden ball in the sky.
- The wind is a playful kitten.
- My brother is a monkey.
- My teacher is a walking encyclopedia.
- The ocean is a vast, blue blanket.
- My sister is a shining star.
- The city is a jungle.
- The moon is a silver coin in the sky.
- The night is a black cloak.
Metaphor Examples in Literature
Using a metaphor in a literary piece is an extremely popular choice with writers because this type of figurative language can add an extra layer of complexity to the writing and better convey the feeling of the piece. Now we are going to take a look at some examples of times in which metaphor has been used in a literary sense.
- In the song sing by Michael Buble, we see an example of metaphor in the line ‘why do you not cry me a river?‘
- In ‘The sun rises’ written by John Donne, we see an example of metaphor in the line ‘she is all princes and she is all states.’
- In the piece ‘shall I compare thee to a summers day?‘ there are examples of metaphor throughout the work, one of these examples is that William Shakespeare uses a metaphor to describe a life long love by calling it ‘an eternal summer.’
- In the poem ‘When I have fears’ written by John Keats, we can see an example of metaphor in the line ‘before high piled books in character, they hold like rich the ripened grain.’
- In ‘the sun rising’ written by John Donne, we can see another example of metaphor being used in the line ‘busy old fool, you unruly sun.‘
- ‘I carry your heart with me’ written by E E Cummings, shows a good example of metaphor in the line ‘you are what a moon means and what a sun sings is you.’
- Kate Chopin uses metaphor in her piece ‘The storm’ where she writes the line ‘her words are a fountain of delight.‘
- In ‘The call of Cthulhu’ written by H P Lovecraft, we can see an example of metaphor when we read the line ‘we live on a calm island of ignorance in the middle of infinite black oceans.’
- In the song ‘Hound dog’ by Elvis Presley, we see a metaphor in the title line when he sings ‘you are nothing but a hound dog.‘
- The song by Rascal Flatts, ‘life is a highway’ features a metaphor in it’s title by stating that life is in fact a highway.
- In the song ‘human nature’ by Michael Jackson, we can see that there is a metaphor example in the line ‘life is an apple so let me take a bite.‘
- Switchfoot sings a song which uses a metaphor as it’s title, which is ‘love is a song.’
- In the song ‘heart of gold’ by Neil Young, there are many examples of metaphor, one of them is seen in the line ‘I am a minor for a heart of gold.‘
Metaphor Examples in Poems
- “The fog comes / on little cat feet.” – Carl Sandburg
- “I wandered lonely as a cloud” – William Wordsworth
- “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage” – William Shakespeare
- “A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counsellor, a multitude of counsellors.” – Henry Ward Beecher
- “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players” – William Shakespeare
- “My heart is a lonely hunter that hunts / On a lonely hill.” – William Sharp
- “The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.” – Alfred Noyes
- “Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs” – William Shakespeare
- “The wind tapped like a tired man / And like a host, ‘Come in,’ / I boldly answered; entered then / My residence within.” – Emily Dickinson
- “A hope like the sun / Aspires, / And shines, / And never sets.” – Emily Dickinson
- “Hope is a thing with feathers / That perches in the soul” – Emily Dickinson
- “The mind is a universe and can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” – John Milton
- “O my Luve’s like a red, red rose / That’s newly sprung in June” – Robert Burns
- “Time is a thief that steals our years away” – Edward Young
- “The streets were a furnace, the sun an executioner” – Cynthia Ozick
- “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page” – Saint Augustine
- “Memory is a mirror that scandalously lies.” – Julio Cortázar
- “My heart’s a stereo / It beats for you, so listen close” – Gym Class Heroes
- “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” – Thomas Jefferson
- “Life is a game of whist. From unseen sources / The cards are shuffled and the hands are dealt.” – Edwin Arlington Robinson
Metaphor Examples (By Different Categories)
Examples of Metaphors about Nature:
- As busy as a bee
- As free as a bird
- As gentle as a lamb
- As fierce as a tiger
- As cool as a cucumber
- As bright as the sun
- As steady as a rock
- As fast as lightning
Examples of Metaphors about Food and Drink:
- Life is like a box of chocolates
- She’s a peach
- He’s a lemon
- She’s a hot potato
- He’s a cold fish
- She’s a spicy meatball
- Life is a bowl of cherries
- She’s the apple of his eye
Examples of Metaphors about the Body:
- He has a heart of gold
- She’s a breath of fresh air
- He’s got nerves of steel
- She’s a pain in the neck
- He’s a real pain in the butt
- She’s a sight for sore eyes
- He’s got a sharp tongue
- She’s all ears
Examples of Metaphors about Animals:
- As sly as a fox
- As strong as an ox
- As quiet as a mouse
- As busy as a beaver
- As stubborn as a mule
- As wise as an owl
- As slippery as an eel
- As happy as a clam
Examples of Metaphors about Technology:
- My brain is a computer
- My phone is my lifeline
- His mind is a well-oiled machine
- She’s wired for success
- His memory is like a hard drive
- She’s a master of multitasking
- He’s a tech wizard
- She’s a coding genius
Examples of Metaphors about Emotion:
- She was boiling with anger
- He was on cloud nine after winning the race
- She was drowning in sorrow
- He was a volcano of emotions
- She was bursting with excitement
- He was feeling blue
- She was over the moon with joy
- He was simmering with frustration
Examples of Metaphors about Behaviors:
- He was walking on eggshells around his boss
- She was tiptoeing around the issue
- He was playing it safe
- She was testing the waters
- He was running in circles trying to solve the problem
- She was juggling too many tasks
- He was dancing around the question
- She was tip-toeing through the minefield of office politics
Examples of Metaphors about Love:
- She’s the apple of his eye
- He wears his heart on his sleeve
- She’s a ray of sunshine in his life
- He’s head over heels in love with her
- She’s the missing piece in his puzzle
- He’s her knight in shining armor
- She’s the light in his darkness
- He’s her rock in the stormy sea of life
Examples of Metaphors about Time:
- Time is money
- Time flies when you’re having fun
- The past is a foreign country
- The future is a blank slate
- The present is a gift
- Time is a thief
- The years are creeping up on her
- He’s stuck in a time warp
Metaphor Examples about Knowledge and Learning:
- Knowledge is power
- She’s a walking encyclopedia
- He’s a quick study
- She’s a sponge for new information
- He’s a font of knowledge
- Learning is a journey
- She’s cracking the code
- He’s unlocking the mysteries of the universe
Metaphor Examples about Success and Failure
- Failure is a stepping stone to success
- Success is a double-edged sword
- He’s climbing the ladder of success
- She’s hitting a brick wall
- He’s treading water
- She’s making great strides
- He’s on a slippery slope
- She’s stuck in a rut
Metaphor Examples about Health and Illness
- He’s fighting a losing battle
- She’s a picture of health
- He’s as fit as a fiddle
- She’s burning the candle at both ends
- He’s a ticking time bomb
- She’s on the road to recovery
- He’s walking on thin ice
- She’s living on borrowed time
Metaphor Examples about Creativity
- She’s a creative powerhouse
- His mind is a wellspring of ideas
- She’s a master of her craft
- He’s painting with words
- She’s weaving a tapestry of ideas
- He’s sculpting his vision
- She’s writing a symphony of words
- He’s a virtuoso of creativity
Metaphor Examples about Travel
- Life is a journey, not a destination
- She’s setting sail on a new adventure
- He’s charting his own course
- She’s wandering down the path less traveled
- He’s hitting the open road
- She’s taking the scenic route
- He’s exploring new horizons
- She’s crossing the finish line
Metaphor Examples about Politics
- He’s playing hardball
- She’s a political animal
- He’s a political lightning rod
- She’s playing both sides of the fence
- He’s pandering to the base
- She’s a political chameleon
- He’s a kingmaker
- She’s a rising star in the political arena
Metaphor Examples about Relationships
- She’s the yin to his yang
- He’s the peanut butter to her jelly
- She’s the sugar to his spice
- He’s the wind beneath her wings
- She’s the key to his heart
- He’s the missing puzzle piece in her life
- She’s the light of his life
- He’s the love of her life
Metaphor Examples about Sports
- Life is a game, and we are the players
- He’s a slam dunk in the basketball court
- She’s a home run in the baseball field
- He’s a touchdown in the football game
- She’s a star player in the team
- He’s playing ball with life
- She’s a runner-up in the race
- He’s a team player in the game of life
Metaphor Examples about Money
- Money is the root of all evil
- He’s as rich as Croesus
- She’s penny-wise and pound-foolish
- He’s living from paycheck to paycheck
- She’s in the red financially
- He’s as tight-fisted as Scrooge
- She’s made a killing in the stock market
- He’s throwing money down the drain
Types of Metaphors (with Examples)
There exist five main types of metaphors, and an additional sixth one, which is essentially a mix of two or more metaphors.
Let’s detail each one for further illustration:
Standard Metaphor Examples (Direct Metaphor)
The standard metaphor is a direct comparison that treats one idea or entity as synonymous with another. The basic formula to represent this type of metaphor would be “X is Y” or “X = Y.”
Example: “Anna is a sweetie pie.”
This sentence directly compares Anna to the sweetie pie, signifying perhaps that Anna has a charming character.
More Standard Metaphor Examples:
- My love is a rose in bloom.
- She has a heart of gold.
- Life is a journey.
- His temper was a volcano about to erupt.
- My father is the rock of our family.
- Time is money.
- Her words were a knife that cut deep.
- His eyes were a window to his soul.
- Love is a battlefield.
- The world is a stage.
- The classroom was a zoo.
- The stormy relationship was a rollercoaster ride.
- His words were music to her ears.
- She was a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.
- The sea of faces in the crowd was overwhelming.
- The city was a melting pot of cultures.
- He was a lion on the basketball court.
- Her dreams were a castle in the sky.
- She was a fish out of water in the new school.
- The future is a blank canvas waiting to be painted
Implied Metaphor Examples (Indirect Metaphor)
As the term suggests, an implied metaphor compares two unrelated things without explicitly mentioning the other.
Example: “Mike bleated bitterly during the entire trip.”
In this example, Mike is being likened to an annoying sheep or goat, as is suggested by the use of the verb “bleated,” corresponding to the animal’s characteristic cry. The animal itself is not mentioned but merely hinted at.
More Implied Metaphor Examples:
- The night sky was a dark blanket over the city.
- His anger boiled and spilled over.
- The scent of his cologne lingered in the air, a sweet memory of him.
- The problem is a thorn on my side.
- Her words were a warm embrace.
- The politician was a snake in the grass.
- The coffee shop was a beacon of warmth on a cold day.
- The dancer was a butterfly, graceful and light on her feet.
- The news was a dagger in my heart.
- The entrepreneur was a shark in the business world.
- The athlete was a cheetah on the track.
- The music was a river of emotion.
- His words were a hammer that struck deep.
- The child was a flower in bloom, growing stronger each day.
- The team was a well-oiled machine, working together seamlessly.
- The story was a maze, with twists and turns at every corner.
- The painting was a window into the artist’s soul.
- The city streets were a jungle, full of danger and excitement.
- The problem was a knot that needed to be untangled.
- Her voice was a symphony, filling the room with beauty and harmony
Visual Metaphor Examples
A visual metaphor uses images as a medium to communicate a message without saying it outright.
For example, the picture of “a person in a wheelchair cheering” may not mean much in isolation. Still, if the project leader wishes to establish a theme – namely, “smile in the face of adversity” – the image might be useful in giving away that intended interpretation.
- A heart-shaped lock and key, used to represent love or the idea of unlocking someone’s heart.
- A ship sailing through rough waters, used to represent overcoming challenges or navigating through difficult times.
- A puzzle with missing pieces, used to represent something that is incomplete or needs to be solved.
- A broken chain, used to represent freedom or breaking free from something.
- A maze or labyrinth, used to represent a complex problem or difficult situation that requires navigation and persistence.
- A tree with deep roots, used to represent stability, strength, and the idea of being grounded.
- A mirror reflecting an image, used to represent self-reflection or the idea of looking within oneself.
Extended Metaphor Examples
Extended metaphors are often employed in heavy literary work, especially poems or novels. They’re still comparisons between unlike things but extend beyond the mere sentence structure, spanning multiple paragraphs, lines, or stanzas.
One classic example can be found in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, where Juliet is described as a sun by her lover, all the while fleshing out the various traits proper to the celestial body, like its brightness and orientation.
More Extended Metaphor Examples:
- Life is a journey, and we are all just travelers on the road of existence.
- Love is a rose, beautiful and delicate, but also capable of causing pain with its thorns.
- The world is a stage, and we are all actors playing our assigned roles.
- Hope is a beacon, shining bright in the darkness and guiding us towards a better tomorrow.
- Time is a river, constantly flowing forward and impossible to stop or control.
- Knowledge is a key, unlocking doors of opportunity and opening up new worlds of understanding.
- Dreams are seeds, planted in the fertile soil of our minds, waiting to grow and bloom into reality.
- Friendship is a shelter, offering protection and comfort during life’s storms.
- Success is a mountain, a difficult climb that requires strength, perseverance, and determination.
- Trust is a fragile vase, easily shattered and difficult to repair.
Dead Metaphor Examples
Dead metaphors originally had a drastically different meaning but largely lost it due to frequent usage in other contexts.
Example: Everyone now assumes that “falling in love” is synonymous with becoming enamored without pondering about the physical act of “falling.”
It is debated among experts whether a dead metaphor is, in fact, a true one, especially when considering it doesn’t follow the underlying structure proper to this figure of speech.
More Dead Metaphor Examples:
- Foot of the bed – originally referred to the foot of a bed, but now used to describe the end of anything.
- Face of the clock – originally referred to the clock’s dial, but now used to describe the front of anything.
- Arm of a chair – originally referred to the armrest of a chair, but now used to describe the side of anything.
- Heart of the matter – originally referred to the core of an issue, but now used to describe the main point of anything.
- Head of the class – originally referred to the student with the highest academic standing, but now used to describe the best performer in any field.
- Eye of the storm – originally referred to the calm center of a hurricane, but now used to describe a peaceful moment amidst a crisis.
- Mouth of a river – originally referred to the opening of a river into a larger body of water, but now used to describe the source of anything.
- Footing the bill – originally referred to paying the bill with one’s foot, but now used to describe paying for something.
- Shooting off at the mouth – originally referred to firing a gun without thinking, but now used to describe speaking without thinking.
- Hand in hand – originally referred to holding hands, but now used to describe things that go together well
Mixed Metaphor Examples
In a mixed metaphor, the writer or speaker blends two different metaphor types, sometimes resulting in absurd comparisons that border on satire at times. Usually, the person uttering these metaphors is so cognizant of their figurative meaning that they fail to discern how ridiculous the statement sounds in its literal sense.
Example: “Birds of a feather have left the station”
This metaphor combines two wholly incompatible comparisons: “Birds of a feather flock together” and “the train has left the station.” There is nothing undergirding this statement other than the fact that it’s “grammatically correct.”
More Mixed Metaphor Examples:
- “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” (Combining “burning bridges” and “crossing bridges”)
- “He’s a loose cannonball on a sinking ship.” (Combining “loose cannon” and “sinking ship”)
- “She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but the cat’s out of the bag.” (Combining “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and “cat’s out of the bag”)
- “I’ll ride this train until the wheels come off.” (Combining “riding a train” and “wheels come off”)
- “He’s a fish out of water who’s trying to climb the corporate ladder.” (Combining “fish out of water” and “climbing the corporate ladder”)
- “Let’s take the bull by the horns and grab the tiger by the tail.” (Combining “take the bull by the horns” and “grab the tiger by the tail”)
By looking at the metaphor in a more profound way, we have discovered that it is a form of figure of speech which replaces the name of an item, situation or action with something that it is not. It is a more creative and expressive way to show the literal meaning of something without using literal speech.
Metaphors are extremely common in spoken English and can be regularly heard in day to day conversation. They are also very popular for use in writing, whether that is in song, script, poetry or otherwise, enabling the writer to add more emotional and deep meaning to a statement.
Frequently Asked Questions on Metaphors
What is a metaphor?
A metaphor tries to integrate ideas that seem unrelated to convey an expression that can grab the audience’s attention. In other words, it’s a “figure of speech” where an idea, action, or object is described in a manner that shouldn’t be reckoned as “literally true.”
What are some examples of a metaphor?
Some common examples of metaphors include “life is a journey,” “time is money,” and “her words were music to his ears.”
What is a simile and a metaphor examples?
A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things using the words “like” or “as”. For example, “Her eyes sparkled like diamonds” is a simile that compares the brightness of someone’s eyes to the brightness of diamonds.
A metaphor, on the other hand, is a figure of speech that compares two things by saying one thing is another thing. For example, “Life is a journey” is a metaphor that compares the experience of living to the act of traveling. Another example could be “He is a shining star” which compares someone’s talent or personality to the brightness of a star.
What is an extended metaphor?
An extended metaphor is a literary device used to compare two things in a more elaborate and complex manner than a simple metaphor. It works by extending a comparison throughout a piece of writing, usually through multiple sentences or even an entire text.
For example, in John Donne’s poem “No Man Is an Island,” he compares individuals to parts of a larger world, stating “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” This metaphor is extended throughout the poem to make a statement about interdependence and the interconnectedness of all people.