What is a metaphor? Can you give some examples?

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jfahr | Student, College Junior | eNotes Employee

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A metaphor is literary tool used to compare two things, without the use of the words like or as.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A metaphor is much more than a figure of speech. We tend to think it metaphors and to dream in metaphors. A great poet like Shakespeare can write in metaphors. Our brains can make metaphors out of practically anything. It is part of the way we think. We equate one thing with another. We use metaphors in our daily speech because we see connections between different things.He's a Napoleon. She's a princess. That car is a lemon. Marriage is slavery. Old age is hell. Sometimes we repeat other people's metaphors, but occasionally we come up spontaneously with metaphors of our own, and sometimes other people take them up and they spread across the country. Life is a rat race. Travel is a fools' paradise. Horse racing is a sucker's game. A useful trade is a mine of gold. A penny saved is a penny earned. Metaphors aren't just for decoration but express important truths in few words. 

Here is a video about metaphors:

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Shakespeare's sonnets are full of metaphors and are probably the best examples of metaphors. Read especially sonnet LXXIII, beginning:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruin'd choirs, where lete the sweet birds sang.

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opalwrites | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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A metaphor is a form of direct comparison, where one thing is said to be another, directly, by using the verb "to be".

For example:

  • The boy is a cypress press.
  • James is a stallion dashing across the savannah, all grace and speed.
  • The toddler is a butterfly flitting from his mother to his father's arms.
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playsthething | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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A metaphor is one of several types of figurative language (simile, synechdoche, personification, hyperbole, etc.).  It is similar to a simile, but is less obvious because it does not use "like" or "as".  For example, if I say that the my son's eyes are as blue as sapphires, that is a simile.  However, if I just say that my son's eyes are sapphires, it's a metaphor.  This is a very simplistic way of looking at it, but it's the basic difference between simile and metaphor (something that students tend to struggle with).  

You might also hear of an extended metaphor.  That's when a writer sets up a metaphor and extends it beyond its initial meaning.  For example, let's say I've set up my metaphor of my son's eyes being sapphires which establishes their color, but then I might go on to discuss their value and preciousness.  That would extend the metaphor beyond its initial use of describing the color of my son's eyes.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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There is also such a thing as a metaphysical conceit--also a metaphor, but a comparsion between two seemingly unrelated things.

John Donne is a master at this, and an example of this is in his poem, "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" where he compares his love for his wife to a compass and also where he compares his love for his wife to gold.

The man is leaving his wife for a business trip and he tells her their love above all the crying and physical mourning.  He says you are the fixed foot (of the compass) and I am the part with the pencil...the farther away I travel, we never really part.  You just lean toward me until I come home again and we are again together.

He also compares their love to gold.  He says we never leave each other--absence makes our hearts grow fonder and we are connected not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally.  So, like gold, when you beat it, it never breaks.  It only expands to an airy thinness like gold foil.  We are like that.

Metaphors are a comparison between two things without the words "like" or "as".  Usually the comparison is fairly obvious or take little thought to make the connection.

Metaphysical conceits are metaphors taken to the next level. 


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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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An easy way to remember metaphor is:

A metaphor is a comparison between two things without the use of like or as (it's almost the same as a simile, except we omit the like or as)

Some examples of metaphors are:

Time is a river

(Time is being compared to a river, perhaps because rivers flow on endlessly just like time passes endlessly)

Don't change a horse in the middle of a race

(Here the comparison is not as easy to see. This is a comparison between a horse race and perhaps someone faced with a decision to press on with a project or to change a course of action. For example, if a person was a senior in college it wouldn't be wise to change majors because it will take a long time to finish just like if a person in a horse race decided to change horses in the middle- he surely will lose so it would be unwise.)

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cmcqueeney | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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A metaphor is a comparison between two things as if they were the same.   Examples:

His marriage was a noose around his neck.

Her hair was a drowned rat.

The butterfly was a beautiful painting of color. 

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nicole8923 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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A metaphor is used when you are trying to compare two or more things without using the words, "like" or "as".


  1. His head was spinning with ideas.
  2. Her home was a prison.
  3. She has a heart of gold.
  4. It is raining cats and dogs.
  5. You had better pull your socks up.
  6. The noise is music to her ears.
  7. You light up my life with your presence.
  8. My memory is a little cloudy about that incident.
  9. He basted her with flattery to get the job.
  10. Keep your eyes peeled.
  11. Take a moment to digest the info.
  12. A rainbow of flavors.

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adarshanurag | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance. In simpler words, it is pointing our a resemblance without using words 'as' and 'like'.

Eg:- "Are fed by peaceful harvests, by war's long winter starved"

       "Thine azure sister of the spring shall blow"

       " That time of year thou mayst in me behold"

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ssandhu05 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Honors

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The definition of a metaphor is this: it's a figure of speech, used normally in literature, that compares two things without using "like" or "as." The reason why they do not use "like" or "as" is because a simile is the exact same thing as a metaphor, but it defined clearly when "like" or "as" are used. An example of metaphors would be: "He turned over a new leaf."

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sid-sarfraz | Student, Graduate | (Level 2) Salutatorian

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A metaphor can be defined as the phrase used to show comparison between two things, animals, places and people, without using simile i.e. words "like" and "as". These mainly are used to properly describe or visualize or imagine any thought, basically showing the association between the two things.

Examples of metaphor's are as follows:-

  • Time is an endless roller coaster ride
  • You are my guardian angel
  • My husband is a knight in a shining armor
  • Curiosity killed the cat

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crystaltu001 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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A metaphor is a phrase that does not use the words "like" or "as" to compare two things. An example of a metaphor is " Life is a journey ".

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atyourservice | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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A metaphor compares two or more things without using the word like or as:

An example of a metaphor would be:

She is a walking book.

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