Guide to Literary Terms

Start Your Free Trial

Download Guide to Literary Terms Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Metaphor

Metaphor - a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to a person, idea, or object to which it is not literally applicable. It is an implied analogy or unstated comparison which imaginatively identifies one thing with another. This device is used by an author to turn or twist the meaning of a word. Metaphors are the most often used figure of speech. While not required in poetry, they are universally used there. A “dead metaphor” is a former metaphor now accepted as common usage, such as table leg or car hood.

The term is from the Greek metaphora, meaning “transference” which was formed by combining meta, meaning “over” and pherein, meaning “to carry.”

John Donne makes use of metaphor when he writes in Twickenham Garden:

And take my tears, which are love’s wine.

see: analogy, connotation, metaphor, simile