What Is a Metaphor?
Definition: A metaphor is a kind of figurative language that compares two different things or ideas. Unlike a simile, a metaphor makes this comparison without using the words “like” or “as.” Sometimes, the two things or ideas in a metaphor will be very much like one another; other times, they will be different. Using metaphors can allow for beautiful and sometimes fantastical descriptions that can be quite memorable. Metaphors are commonly used in a variety of different writing styles, from poetry and song lyrics to short stories, novels and even nonfiction works. Writers can use individual metaphors to enhance their sentences, but they can also create a larger metaphor that they’ll use a piece of writing to fully explore. In this resource, we’ll focus on individual metaphors, including tips on how to use and identify metaphors, as well as metaphor examples.
How Do You Identify Metaphor in Writing?
Metaphors are very similar to another form of figurative language, simile. The primary difference, though, is that when you write a simile, you use the words “like” or “as” to create the comparison between two different things. Since metaphors do not use these connective words, they can feel a little more dreamlike and lyrical. To identify a metaphor, simply notice anytime you see a thing, person, object, idea, place or feeling being described by being equated to something else. For example: “She was a tall tree.” Obviously, the person being described is not literally a tree; the writer is using a metaphor to allow us to understand that she is a very tall individual.
When to Use Metaphor in Your Writing
Metaphors can make your writing more engaging and exciting for the reader. You want to strike the right balance between finding an interesting connection and still making your meaning clear. For example, if you wrote, “She was a chair,” without any additional information, it’s not clear why you’re comparing a person to a chair. Be specific and clear, and your use of metaphor will add a lot of richness. For example: “She was a welcoming, familiar armchair.” This sentence gives a much clearer connection, and we understand a little more about who is being described.
Metaphors are wonderful to use in poetry and more lyrical prose writing, such as narratives, descriptive essays or short stories. You can also try using metaphor occasionally in a piece of nonfiction writing in order to better gain your audience’s attention or make a point in a creative way.
So what do metaphors actually look like? Read on for 10 examples of metaphor, and then click the link below for our complete resource of metaphor examples.
- My mother is both the queen and the president.
- The day off from school was a golden ticket to freedom.
- Her face is the sun, and I’m a cloudy day.
- He’s a real cool cat.
- America is a melting pot.
- His solution to the problem was just a Band-Aid.
- The long afternoons of detention were a prison sentence.
- If you’re too scared to use the diving board, then you must be a chicken.
- My dad’s car is an old, loud dinosaur.
- The children’s laughter was music to my ears.
Check out more Metaphor Examples
For additional examples of metaphor, including examples of metaphor from works of literature, please visit our Metaphor Examples resource.
Check out our free, printable Metaphor Worksheets too!