Everything You Need to Know about Metaphors

There’s no point making plans with Sam. He is a couch potato.

Most of us are familiar with the term “couch potato”, right? It refers to a person who is lazy, inactive, and spends most of his/her time watching television. Obviously, it is different from the literal meaning of the term. This is what a metaphor sounds like.

A metaphor is a figure of speech that states that one thing is another thing. It basically equates two things for the sake of comparison or symbolism and not because they are the same. If you try to take the metaphor literally (imagine a potato named Sam on a couch), it will probably sound weird.

What Is A Metaphor

Metaphors are generally used in literature, poetry, and any time when someone wants to represent abstract concepts through colourful language.

What Is a Metaphor? Definition, Purpose and Examples

If you want to learn the dictionary definition of metaphor, you can refer to the following:

Metaphors are figures of speech which not true in the literal sense. They are not lies or errors, though, since these are not intended to be interpreted literally.

Metaphors are used in communication to help explain or illustrate a thing by comparing it to some other thing. Primarily, metaphors serve the following functions:

  1. Help the readers/listeners vividly visualise concepts that are unfamiliar
  2. Clarify unfamiliar situation more comprehensively
  3. Bring some variety and interest in writing or conversations
  4. Create strong images, leaving lasting impressions
  5. Combine the intangible with the literal
  6. Have an impact on the readers and audience members

As you may have realised by now, metaphors are illustrations that make a strong point by drawing a comparison between two things you would not necessarily combine together. Here are some examples of metaphors and their meanings.

  • He is the black sheep of our family.

Here, a person is referred to as a black sheep. It simply means that the person is regarded as a disgrace to the family.

  • I’m getting cold feet thinking about the presentation.

In this statement, the narrator does not actually have icy cold feet. It simply implies that he/she is experiencing a lack of confidence or is too fearful about the presentation.

  • Jaime is the apple of my eye.

As you have guessed already, there is no apple in the narrator’s eye. It just means that the narrator holds Jaime very dear.

Metaphors make your subject of writing or speech more relatable to the readers and audience members. They also help you immensely when you are trying to enhance your writing with imagery.

Types of Metaphors

There are several types of metaphors that you may come across while reading a piece of literature, listening to music, or talking to someone. The popular forms of metaphor are mentioned below:

This type of metaphors compares two things that have no particular connection to make a significant point. E.g., He is walking a tightrope with his performance this appraisal period.

Dead metaphors are those which have lost their significance through repetitive usage over an extended period of time. They are also known as frozen metaphors and historical metaphors. E.g., It was a groundbreaking discovery.

These metaphors are lengthy ones that are intended to create deep comparisons. Such metaphors are mentioned once in a body of text and then referenced several times later in the text. Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is a thing with feathers” had used this type of metaphor several times.

This type of metaphors compares two unlike things without mentioning one of them. This is different from regular metaphors since this one does not specifically state what it is comparing. E.g., Janice was able to lure Mike into her web. (Janice is being compared to a spider, but is not expressly stated).

Such metaphors jumble comparisons together, sometimes without any logic. E.g., In the heat of the moment, he turned to ice and dance to his own tune.

This type of metaphors is so rooted in the current language and assumptions that it is hard for anyone of us to identify them as a metaphor. E.g., Time is money.

There are more than just these six common versions of metaphors mentioned above. However, if you want to learn things in more details, you can consult with your English professor and seek his/her guidance.

The Difference between Metaphor and Simile

It is easy to get confused between a metaphor and a simile as they both make comparisons. However, it is easy to differentiate between metaphors and similes if you pay attention to the statement. Similes generally use the words “like” or “as” while comparing things, while metaphors just directly state a comparison.

Let’s give you an example. You must have heard the popular song “Dynamite” by the K-pop boy band named BTS.

The line “Life is sweet as honey” is a simile, while the line “I’m diamond, you know I glow up” is a metaphor.

How to Come Up with Good Metaphors?

In case you are trying to put metaphors in your writing in order to make it more interesting, you need to understand that metaphors often represent something that hardly makes any literal sense. Think of the metaphor “born with a silver spoon.” With the right context, the metaphor does make sense, but no baby is actually born with a silver spoon in his/her mouth. You need to establish the fact that the baby was born in a wealthy family.

A valuable tip that you should consider is that while you are coming up with your own metaphor, try to stick to concepts that the readers are familiar with but don’t always associate with a person. So, you can try to include metaphors in your text when you feel like your writing needs some boost. But again, you need to be a bit careful about the usage.

With some practice and guidance, you can use metaphors well while writing. However, if you feel like you need some assistance, you can always ask for help.

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