She’s the man of the house! What do you think the above sentence implies? The ‘woman’ is being called the ‘man’ to draw a parallel with the idea of taking all the responsibility and being the bread earner in the house. This was an example of a common metaphor!Metaphors are widely used across the English language and hold an important place in exams like IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, TOEIC, and many more. If you are preparing for English for competitive exams, then this blog on common metaphors with meanings can help you out in many ways. Read on to know more!
What is a Metaphor?
Metaphor (Etymology: ‘Metaphora’ in Greek meaning “to transfer”) is an interesting way to emphasize and map certain descriptive qualities of two terms. They come under the branch of figures of speech in literature and poetry. Metaphors create a beautiful blend between concepts, to form comparisons between a particular behaviour, concept or a feeling with something impractical or unrelated to it.
The evolution of language has witnessed many metaphorical descriptions turn into a conventional language used today. However, metaphors can be used in abstract forms also. The best examples of abstract metaphors are seen in movies like the Oscar-winner Parasite where the characters are attributed to the quality of leaching off wealth.
Trivia: Many words have their origin as metaphors. For e.g., ‘Window’ comes from a metaphorical description of the object “Wind eye”. The etymology of the flower ‘Daisy’ is also from a similar metaphorical description “Day’s eye” because the petals of the flower open in the morning and close at night.
Types of Metaphors
Let’s dig deeper and look at the many types of metaphors!
Here are a few common types of metaphors:
An implied metaphor compares two things without naming one of the things. Here we draw an implication by using the basic formula: A is B.
For example: “Our soldiers were lions in the war.” This means the soldiers fought like lions.
“A woman barked a warning at her child.” This implies that the woman is compared to a dog.
One of the most interesting types of metaphors, a visual metaphor compares one thing to a visual image that suggests an association. it is the most subtle, yet strong approach to compare two things and deliver a message. Visual metaphors are frequently used in advertisements and movies to symbolise or depict a theme, feeling, etc. For example, the following picture is a visual metaphor that suggests that the Earth is melting like an Ice Cream to indicate the effects of climate change and globalizat
An extended metaphor is a metaphor that extends over several lines in a poem, stanza, or passage. These extended metaphors build upon simple metaphors with figurative language and descriptive comparison. For example, in the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, he makes the comparison between two roads and life choices.
Metaphor Examples for Kids
In the initial years of our lives, our brain grasps concepts much faster than adults. teaching metaphors through creative examples can help children develop unique perspectives and understanding about concepts, ideas, and materials. If you want to teach the concept of metaphors to kids, you can use various creative metaphors that children can easily remember. Here are the best metaphor examples for kids.
- Heart of stone: Cruel or stern nature
My teacher has a heart of stone.
- The Zoo metaphor: Crowded and noisy
The classroom turns into a zoo during recess.
- A might lion: Huge, powerful
The thunder at night was a mighty lion.
- Apple of my eye: Someone you are fond of or cherish above others
You are the apple of my eye.
- Sunshine metaphor: Happy, warm people or something radiating happiness or warmth
His smile is my sunshine.
- White blanket: Snow compared to a blanket as it covers everything
The snow is a white blanket.
- Melting pot: Different cultures coming together
Canada is a melting pot of cultures.
- Music of my ears: Exactly what you want to hear
His voice is music to my ears.
- Hard work is the key to success: Hardwork is what you need to achieve success
You must always remember that hard work is the key to success.
- Walking Encyclopedia: Very knowledgeable about everything
Joey is a walking encyclopedia.
- Time is money: The value of time is as important as money itself.
Time is money, my friend!
- Tall tree: Taller in height like a giant
He is a tall tree.
- A computer brain: Very good at calculations
Karen’s brain is a computer.
- Laughter is the best medicine.: Laughing keeps you healthy
Every doctor must know that laughter is the best medicine.
- Mirror: Reflective and clear like glass
The serene lake was a mirror.
- Stars as little pearls: White pearls are like a metaphor for stars
The stars are twinkling little pearls.
- Life is a dance: Dance as a metaphor for life
Life is a dance, so let your feet up!
- An angel: Someone nice and kind
She helped me with my homework, she is an angel!
- Disaster: A mess
My sister’s room is a disaster!
- Clouded: Confused, not clear about something
My memory is a little clouded about yesterday.
List of 50 Common Metaphors
- The wind screamed in his face while he was riding the bike.
Meaning: The wind is compared with a scream to emphasize on how furiously it blew.
- Go for a walk or you’ll become a couch potato.
Meaning: Here, the person is told that he/she will turn fat and bulgy like a potato if they avoid exercising.
- Her heart of stone was the result of the previous unfortunate events in her life.
Meaning: In this sentence, the heart is symbolised by a stone, emphasizing on the lack of empathy she developed.
- Her mom warned her about the monsters in the world.
Meaning: The denotation of the bad, wicked people is made by monsters.
- He was a diamond among the sea of glass.
Meaning: The man (diamond) is said to be unique like a diamond among other ordinary men (sea of glass).
- You’re sitting on a winning lottery.
Meaning: The term winning lottery is used to emphasize on a golden opportunity.
- She started with a new chapter by choosing him.
Meaning: A major new phase in the girl’s life is denoted by a new chapter which is void of the unnecessary past associations.
- He was a cheetah in the race.
Meaning: The runner’s speed is being attributed to the speed of a cheetah.
- You’ll be left in the dust.
Meaning: Here leaving one in the dust, implies being left far behind.
- The professor was a guiding light for him.
Meaning: The professor is compared with light, so as to help him pave his way easily.
- The curtains of life fell.
Meaning: The phrase ‘curtains of life’ are compared to that of a show which has fallen denoting that the person’s life is over.
- Life is a maze.
Meaning: Life is being said to have its own navigation as you move ahead with surprises at every turn.
- There’s a rat among us.
Meaning: Rats are said to be sneaky animals and are associated with betrayal.
- Her heart sank on hearing the terrible news.
Meaning: The sinking of the heart is termed to emphasise on deep sorrow.
- Laughter is the best medicine.
Meaning: Laughter is compared with medicine so as to help you heal or recover from an event.
- India’s culture is a salad bowl.
Meaning: Salad bowl is a common cultural idea to reflect India’s multiple cultures, yet having their own individual identities.
- His heart was made of gold.
Meaning: Here, gold is used to indicate abundance and generosity.
- She was drowning in grief.
Meaning: Drowning is used to emphasize the amount of sorrow or problems in a person’s life.
- The mind is an ocean.
Meaning: The mind is attributed to its endless capacity and also to characterize calmness.
- Her heart melts when she sees him.
Meaning: The melting of the heart means to be sympathetic and compassionate.
- Your words cut deeper than a knife.
Meaning: The phrase is used to emphasize the intensity of a certain hurtful speech.
- You’re a firework.
Meaning: The word firework is used to characterize ample potential and to make the best out of your talents.
- She’s a walking dictionary.
Meaning: Walking dictionary implies knowledge or facts known to the person.
- She’s the man of the house.
Meaning: The word ‘man’ is used to draw a parallel with being the responsible person or the bread earner of the house.
- His fear became his prison.
Meaning: Prison here is used to denote the walls created by the person due to their fears.
- The news of the accident was a dagger in her heart.
Meaning: The word dagger is used to emphasise the depth of the agony suffered.
- The world is your oyster.
Meaning: The world is said to hold endless opportunities for you to explore and find your pearl.
- She was an angel in disguise.
Meaning: The word angel is used to draw a parallel with the altruistic nature of the person.
- He has got the eye of the tiger.
Meaning: The eye of the tiger reflects the intensity of focus and strength of a person.
- She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
Meaning: The term silver spoon is used to highlight privilege.
- His anger was a wildfire waiting to ignite.
Meaning: The wildfire is used to denote the characteristic of extreme enrage.
- He’s the diamond in the rough.
Meaning: The above sentence shows that the boy is unpolished but has potential and talent.
- The stormy ocean was a raging bull.
Meaning: The ocean is being compared to a raging bull which highlights danger.
- Teachers mould their students for their future.
Meaning: The word Mould is used to draw a parallel with development and growth of the student.
- His lawyer is a shark.
Meaning: The lawyer being compared to a shark means the implication of vicious or ruthless behaviour.
- He thinks that the world revolves around him.
Meaning: Here, the ‘world revolving around someone’ is used to describe a self-centred person or behaviour.
- The mind is a computer.
Meaning: The mechanisms of the computer are compared to the brain.
- Sarojini Naidu is the nightingale of India.
Meaning: The attribution of poetry and a melodious voice is associated with the nightingale and hence, the comparison.
- A friend is a treasure.
Meaning: The friend is given the attributes of a treasure being precious and hard to find.
- Love is a rose.
Meaning: Rose is used to characterize both- beauty and hardships (Petals and thorns).
- Her smile lights up my world.
Meaning: To light up one’s world means to seek pleasure and happiness from the act and to illuminate their mood.
- She’s an early bird.
Meaning: Early bird indicates to wake up early or arrive early to an event/place.
- His anger bottled up inside.
Meaning: Anger is shown to be repressed inside.
- Life is no bed of roses.
Meaning: This sentence describes the nature of life being filled with hardships and sacrifice.
- I’ll make sure she pays for her doings.
Meaning: Here, paying for something means to fix or pay redemption.
- I’m the master of my sea.
Meaning: The sentence emphasizes the fact that the person is the master of his own world and his own fate.
- See the world from a different lens.
Meaning: Different lens indicates a different perspective.
- The classroom was a zoo.
Meaning: The comparison of a classroom with a zoo is used to imply that the students were misbehaving in class.
- Life isn’t black and white.
Meaning: The term ‘black and white’ is used to highlight the ambiguous nature of life.
- Her soul is black.
Meaning: The soul being called black or dark describes the insensitive nature of a person.
- He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Meaning: A huge amount of trouble is emphasized by the weight of the world.
- The police officer was digging up details about the suspects.
Meaning: The constant search about the suspects is shown by the word ‘digging’
- His irresponsible behaviour made his health turn south.
Meaning: Here, ‘turn south’ means that his behaviour worsened.
- She wears different hats to earn a livelihood.
Meaning: Wearing different hats means doing different jobs to earn a living.
- The complex case landed the detectives barking up the wrong tree.
Meaning: Barking up the wrong tree is used to indicate that the detectives ended up at the wrong conclusion.
- The good news about the profit made lifted his spirits.
Meaning: Here, lift someone’s spirits means to make someone feel carefree.
- Taxes are a minefield for people who are careless.
Meaning: Here, ‘minefield’ is used to denote the presence of dangerous consequences and problems the person is in.
- She soon realized that she had been taken for a ride.
Meaning: Taken for a ride means that she had been tricked.
- She followed her instincts and changed tack.
Meaning: Here, changed tack means try a different way/method.
- Her new job helped her wipe the slate clean.
Meaning: Here, wipe the slate clean means to start something in a fresh manner and forget the past mistakes.
Common Examples in Literature
Metaphors are used by authors, writers, speakers, and poets as interesting devices. They used such metaphors to emphasize an event, situation, or a sensitive matter by using a much stronger concept fit for comparison.
Here are the most common metaphors in Literature:
- “Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.” – Robert Frost
- “Hold fast to dreams, For when dreams go
Life is a barren field, Frozen with snow.” – Langston Hughes
- “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day.” William Shakespeare
- “Hope is the thing with feathers.” – Emily Dickinson
- “The sun was a toddler insistently refusing to go to bed: It was past eight-thirty and still light.” —Fault in Our Stars, John Green
- “Wishes are thorns, he told himself sharply. They do us no good, just stick into our skin and hurt us.” ―A Face Like Glass, Frances Hardinge
- “Love is a battlefield.” – Pat Benatar
- “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” – William Shakespeare
- “Each friend represents a world in us.”– Anais Nin
- “If wits were pins, the man would be a veritable hedgehog.” ―Fly by Night, Frances Hardinge
Common Metaphors of Life
We often say many metaphors in our everyday life and routine without even realising that we are using them. Here are the most common metaphors used in everyday life:
- Life is a race and we never realise that we are running towards nothing!
- He is the light of my life.
- For this whole year, this room has become my prison.
- Love is a fine wine!
- My heart’s a stereo and it beats for you!
- She is happy as a clam.
- My mind becomes an ocean with calm waves when I meditate.
- Yesterday was a roller-coaster!
- She was fit as a fiddle!
- Doesn’t matter, he is an old flame!
Examples in Poems
Many famous poets have used metaphors in their poems as it enhances the meaning of the poem. Here are some of the best poems that used metaphors:
- “All the world is a stage
All men and women merely players”- As you Like It by William Shakespeare
- “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,”
“And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler”
“I took the one less traveled by”- Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
- “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers”
“. . . That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words,”- Hope by Emily Dickinson
Simile and Metaphor
Inarguably, the most common comparisons and mistakes people tend to make are between similes and metaphors. Similes are explicit comparisons, e.g. He ran like a cheetah. A metaphorical sentence for the same would be: He was a cheetah in the race. Similes are cognitively more complicated because it includes the addition of cognizing the two objects. Similes include the words ‘as’ and ‘like’ to draw a comparison between two terms. Metaphors instantly help the reader/listener to apply all attributes of the particular concept to another one.
Is it a Metaphor or a Simile?
Life is like a box of chocolates.
This is a Simile
The world is your oyster
This is a Metaphor
Her mother was as sharp as a tack.
This is a Simile
His computer was a dinosaur.
This is a Metaphor
‘The simile is also a metaphor. The difference is but slight’.
– ‘Aristotle’ by Jonathan Barnes, 1984
Metaphor vs Analogy
While Metaphor and Analogy have the same type of usage, their purpose is different. A metaphor is poetically comparing something with something else while an Analogy is comparing something with something else for an explanatory point.
You can use metaphors within an analogy but you cannot use an analogy within a metaphor.
Example of Metaphor: Heart of Gold
Example of Analogy: Life is like a box of chocolates- you never know what you’re gonna get.