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A metaphor is a figure of speech that is not meant to be understood by its literal meaning, and is a favorite device of poets. We will examine the definition of the word metaphor, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A metaphor is a word or phrase in which one thing is referred to as another, different thing. A metaphor is a comparison or a symbol that is used to describe imagery.  Using a metaphor allows the writer to convey a vivid comparison in a small number of words.  One metaphor example is the phrase his eyes were hot coals. Obviously, a human’s eye is not literally made up of a burning fuel source, but this metaphor quickly conveys the anger of the person in question and the fear that is stirred up in someone looking into his eyes. Other examples of metaphors are time is money and life is a journey. Many idioms are metaphors. Remember, a metaphor is not a literal statement but figurative language that conveys a comparison or symbol quickly, the meaning is implied. A metaphor differs from a simile in that a simile is a comparison using the word like or the word as. The word metaphor is derived from the Greek word metaphora which means a transfer. The adjective forms of metaphor are metaphoric and metaphorical, both of which are correct.

There are several different types of metaphors. An extended metaphor is a metaphor or analogy that is used throughout an entire poem or other written work. This allows the writer to make a more in-depth comparison. A mixed metaphor is the confusion of two, unrelated metaphors. An example of a mixed metaphor is the phrase jump out of the frying pan and into duck soup. This is a combination of two metaphors: jump out of the frying pan and into the fire, and duck soup. A dead metaphor is an idiom that has lost its original impact due to repeated use. For instance, the term clock face is no longer considered a metaphor as one does not usually consider the comparison between a clock and a human face when using this term.


Blue Whale (or rather whale) has become a kind of metaphor for emotionally fragile and psychologically weak individuals who are ill-equipped to handle a stressful situation. (The Tribune India)

The recent news of U.S. Sen. John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis and U.K. infant Charlie Gard’s death were discussed using the same metaphor — warfare. (The Winnipeg Free Press)