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Metaphor Definition And Examples

Metaphor definition and examples of poetry are comprehensively discussed in this article. Learn about several metaphor examples and their usages.

Metaphor definition and examples

“death is a tyrant, trampling on every breath” an example of metaphor.

Metaphor equates things not because they are similar but for the sake of symbolism!

What Does Metaphor Mean?

Metaphor is a member of  the figure of speech that is often employed by the writers and poets while writing. It includes some elements similar to simile, onomatopoeia and personification. Metaphor is a power tool used for illustrations in order to make a strong point with the use of comparison. 

Often times, the object used together for comparison are usually not related. Despite this, they share some characteristics that make them quite similar.

This articles provides powerful examples of metaphor. it also provides several instances whereby metaphor can be used.


Metaphor Definition and Examples

Metaphor Literary Definition

Metaphor is a form of figurative language in literature which refers to the words or expressions that means something different compared to their literal definition. 

 Another definition of metaphor describes metaphor as a literary device that describes object or action in a way that is not literally true, but explains an idea or make a comparison.  Unlike simile, examples of metaphor are direct comparison that don't make use of  “as” or “like”. 

According to the Macmillian Dictionary Definition Of  Metaphor;

Metaphor is a way of describing something in which you refer to it as something else with similar qualities: writers often use war as a metaphor for business and competition[war/competition- example of metaphor]

However, the simple metaphor definition for kids purposely can be referred to, as the literary device that does not make us of "as" or "like" during comparison.

Metaphor In Literature

Metaphor in poetry, sentence, literary texts, novels and for those who wants to add spice to their use of language can seem tricky for reader especially for those who don't really know much about its usage neither could they easily take cognizance of it. It might seem tricky and silly actually, no denial or surprises about that. 

But it's actually an interesting devices used by writers, most especially poets [metaphor in poetry] to pass their messages across to their readers in the most unlikely, interesting manner.

Metaphorically, words can be brought to life through the use of comparison.  Metaphor are often used to create interesting imageries for the readers or to make a complex thoughts quite easy to understand. Metaphor as a common example of figure of speech and they show up in almost everywhere because they are hard to miss

Cognitive Linguistic View Of Metaphor 

Far from the traditional view of metaphor, a new view of metaphor challenged the traditional meaning of metaphor. This new view was called "The Cognitive Linguistic View Of Metaphor", and was first developed by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in 1980 in their seminal study: Metaphors We Live By.
They claimed the following about the meaning metaphor:

1. metaphor is a property of concepts, and not of words; 

2. the function of metaphor is to better understand certain concepts, and not just some artistic or esthetic purpose; 

3. metaphor is often not based on similarity; 

4. metaphor is used effortlessly in everyday life by ordinary people, not just by special talented people; and 

5. metaphor, far from being a superfluous though pleasing linguistic ornament, is an inevitable process of human thought and reasoning.

Thus, In the cognitive linguistic view, metaphor is defined as understanding one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain.

This form of metaphor is also referred to as conceptual metaphor. A conceptual metaphor consists of two conceptual domains, in which one domain is understood in terms of another. A conceptual domain is any coherent organization of experience.

Examples of conceptual metaphor are:

  • An argument is war
  • Love is a journey
  • Theories are buildings 
  • Ideas are food

Types of Metaphor

Types of Metaphor

Technically, several rhetorical theorists and other scholars of language have discussed the different dimensions and types of metaphor. However, they are not universal nor mutually exclusive.

In this section, we will be considering some of the types of metaphor.

1. An Extended Metaphor:

An extended metaphor is a type of metaphor that sets up a principal subject with several subsidiary subjects or comparisons.

Shakespeare used the extended metaphor in his play, "As you like it". An example of extended metaphor in the play is
All the world's a stage / and all the men and women merely players: /They have their exits and their entrances; / And one man in his timeplays many parts

For more clarification, the world is compared to a stage; and then men and women areintroduced as subsidiary subjects further elaborated by the theatre metaphor.

2. A Mixed Metaphor:

This is a type of metaphor that leaps, in the course of a figure, to a second identification inconsistent with the first one.

An example of mixed metaphor is:

“He stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bull by the horns”.

This indicates where two commonly used metaphors are juxtaposed to create an original image.

3. A Dead Metaphor:

A dead metaphor is one in which the sense of a transferred image is no longer present. 

An example of a dead metaphor is:

“he grasped the concept” or “I didn‟t catch your name”.

Noteworthy, the two phrases use a physical action as a metaphor for the purpose of understanding. However, none of them actually visualize the physical action.

Thus, dead metaphors do go unnoticed.

4. Active Metaphor:

This is a type of metaphor that is noticeable as a metaphor  despite not being part of our daily language.

An example of active metaphor is "You are my sun."

5. A Synecdochic Metaphor:

A synecdochic metaphor is a type of metaphor by which a small part of something is chosen to represent the whole in order to highlight certain elements of the whole.

An example of synecdochic metaphor is:  “a pair of ragged claws” 

The use of metaphor represents a crab in  Eliot's Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock. The description of the crab in such manner have it the characteristics of sharpness and savagery, those which are originally associated with claws. 

6. A Compound Metaphor:

This is a type of metaphor that catches the mind with several points of similarity. 

An example of a compound metaphor is: “He has the wild stag's foot.” 

In consideration, the phrase utterly suggests grace and speed as well as daring.

7. A Conceptual Metaphor:

This was already defined and explained above under "Cognitive Linguistic View Of Metaphor"
8. An Implicit Metaphor:

This type of metaphor is one in which the tenor implied rather than specifically expressed. An example of an implicit metaphor is: “Shut your trap!” 

9. A Submerged Metaphor
A submerged metaphor is the type of metaphor in which the vehicle is implied, or indicated by one aspect. 

An example of a submerged metaphor is: “my winged thought”. 

Here, the audience must supply the image of the bird.

10. A Root Metaphor:

This type of metaphor is the underlying worldview that shapes an individual's understanding of a situation.

A root metaphor is different from the previous types of metaphor in that it is not necessarily an explicit device in language, but a fundamental, often unconscious, assumption.

 For instance, some religions see life as a single arrow pointing towarda future endpoint. Others see it as part of an endlessly repeating cycle.

11. Cliché Metaphors:

This type of metaphor refers to the use of cliché expressions in text. 

Examples Of Metaphor

Examples of metaphor

As stated earlier, examples of metaphor usually shows up in text. So why don't we check out some examples of metaphor and their meanings.

1. Example 1

"I'm wandering in the cloud of confusion"

This statement is metaphorical in meaning. "Wallowing" depicts a state of confusion, means traveling without a destination.  This saying emphasizes on the state of confusion while the use of "the pacing of the cloud and its movement illustrates further.

2. Example 2

"He is blue"

This does not literally mean that the man being referred to here si blue. It means that he is sad. Thus, it can't be interpreted literally in its natural meaning, that is , color blue.

3. Example 3

"He was fishing for attention."

The man isn't literally casting a lure to hook compliments out of the ocean. Rather, it's a dead metaphor used to signify a desire for attention from people.

4. Example 4

"He broke my heart."

Broke, is the past tense of break and its natural meaning is to have something shattered into pieces so that it might not be fixed again. Here, you're just feeling sad and heartbroken as a result of a happening and therefore, not your heart. This is a common metaphor example

5. Example 5

"She is the spark of firework amidst the dark"

Can someone be a a spark of firework? No! Or what do you think? Lol! The sentence above can be taken to mean different things and one of them is that she is typically a different person that generates attention amidst the crowd. 

This is quite tricky, right? Well, let's go further into the metaphor examples

6. Example 6

"He is the apple of my eyes"

Of course, no one can be an apple of other people's eyes. The example of metaphor above means that the person is someone who is very dear to another person.

7. Example 7

"You're my heartbeats"

This example of metaphor above means one dear to someone

8. Example 8

"You light up my life."

Of course, no one can light someone's life in flame. This metaphoric expression is simply saying that someone brings them joy. An example of metaphor you hear often.

9. Example 9

"He is a stone."

This seems funny actually, unless one can turn into a stone. Therefore, the stone is often used when saying that someone doesn't show any emotion. Another example of this metaphor expression is " The boy is stone-hearted, he never shows pity"

10. Example 10

"Time is a thief."

Fortunately, time doesn't put on a ski mask and lurk around dark corners. This metaphor illustrates the point that time seems to pass quickly and our lives flash by.

Do you understand quite a bit about metaphor now? That's great. 
Let's try some more examples.

11. Example 11

"He is the apple of my eye."

There is, of course, no apple in someone's eye. The apple is someone held dear. Another example of such metaphor expression is, "You're my sunshine, my bright!"

12. Example 12

"He is going to fade off to sleep."

The metaphor above indicates that someone has drifted off to slumber or has gone to bed. Taking this literally will seems to bring about confusion because no one can actually fade off to sleep or while trying to sleep. That's the magic that metaphor bring to languages and literature in particular.

13. Example 13

"He really flared up my temper."

When someone flares up your temper, flames don't spew out of your body, you're just deeply angry or furious.

14. Example 14

" Take your tipsy emotion to sleep"

It depicts that someone should calm down if he or she is angry or agitated. This can be of a good example if you're a writer, might work while writing prose.

15. Example 15

"The walks of life"

This metaphor example above is another figurative way of saying the developments of man as he grows from after birth, and the challenges he faces during these moment until he dies.

16. Example 16

"He reeks of failure"

Can anyone reek of failure? That's a no, because failure is not a smell that people can actually perceive with their noses. The metaphor is a way of saying one is a failure to the point that almost everybody knows and identify him as one.

17. Example 17

"His words cut deeper than the knife"

Words are not daggers or knife that can cut through flesh. Thus, the example of metaphor above is to illustrate that the words said is hurtful.

 Examples of metaphor {metaphor about life}

1. Life is wicked
2. Life is hard

 Examples of metaphor used by famous writers and erudite authors are :

1. "A good conscience is a continual Christmas" Benjamin Franklin

2. "America has tossed its cap over the wall of space" by William Shakespeare

Other examples of metaphor in literature books:

1. Example 1
Our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind. (Khalil Gibran – Sand & Foam)

2. Example 2
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples. (Sylvia Plath, Metaphors)

3. Example 3
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! (William Shakespeare – Romeo & Juliet)

Metaphor examples as used in a sentence

  • She came out looking blue, checking, waiting, till he comes as she was the sun whose golden light was shuddered by the strength of the dark cloud.
  • He saw him coming down the street in black jean with white shirt, torn in the rugged style. He betrayed her confidence as the sight of him made her heart pound.

Metaphor examples in poetry

She is the sun
That shines down
And makes a new life sprout
Form the earth

Other examples of metaphor

  1. You are my sunshine.
  2. The moon is a white balloon.
  3. Her tears were a river flowing down her cheeks.
  4. The road ahead was a ribbon stretching across the desert.
  5. Life is difficult

From the examples of metaphor listed above , you might have come across some in books, lyrics of most songs especially the metaphor- love is difficult.

Importance Of Metaphor

As emphasized above, metaphors are always expressive and should not be taken literally, some of the purposes of metaphor on poems, novels, songs, and others are:

  1. Metaphor tends to pair the intangible, with the literal to create a long lasting impression through the use of strong images when used properly
  2. Metaphor are often used in poems to create a realistic images with the usage of comparison in the reader's mind
  3. Metaphor is also used to make words or languages more artistic and interesting. 
  4. Metaphors are used by writers to convey their  messages to the mind of the readers easily and quickly.
  5. Metaphor helps writer make their points in interesting ways to their readers.

How to write metaphors?

Writing metaphor takes not superpowers or magic to come up with, all it takes is your imaginations, consistent practice and study of its examples.


This article provides information about metaphor definition and examples, as well as other important things that may be required to be known about metaphor in literature.




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Pawners Paper: Metaphor Definition And Examples
Metaphor Definition And Examples
Metaphor definition and examples of poetry are comprehensively discussed in this article. Learn about several metaphor examples and their usages.
Pawners Paper
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