Metaphor - Explore Meaning, Definition and How to Use Them with Examples

Dogs are friends of man. What do you think this sentence means? Do you really think men have dogs as their friends and not men of their own age? No, that is not what it means. Have you heard of metaphors? Do you know what they are? You do not worry about it even if you have not come across any metaphors so far or do not know much about them. You will be introduced to what metaphors are, their meaning and definitions in this article. You can also take a look at the examples given in the article to understand how they work. Also, learn what makes a metaphor different from a simile.

Table of Contents

What is a Metaphor?

A metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison, but in a way different from a simile. Instead, it makes the comparison as if it was literally true. In other words, it can be said that a metaphor is an implied comparison. It makes a comparison between things or ideas that are generally unlike.

Now, let us also take a look at how different dictionaries define a metaphor to have a clearer understanding of the same.

Definition of a Metaphor

A metaphor, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is defined as “an expression, often found in literature, that describes a person or object by referring to something that is considered to have similar characteristics to that person or object.” According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, a metaphor is defined as “a word or phrase used to describe somebody/something else, in a way that is different from its normal use, in order to show that the two things have the same qualities and to make the description more powerful.” The Collins Dictionary defines a metaphor as “an imaginative way of describing something by referring to something else which is the same in a particular way”, and according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a metaphor is “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.”

How to Use a Metaphor in a Sentence? Points to Keep in Mind

Every figure of speech is meant to create some effect in the mind of your audience. In order to produce the desired effect on your audience, you should know for sure how to make use of each and every figure of speech. Now, have a look at the following points to learn how to make good use of metaphors in your sentences.

  • When you are using a metaphor, double check if the metaphor is actually conveying the meaning you want to convey to your target audience.
  • There might be circumstances where you will have to make comparisons between two like or unlike qualities or things. In such cases, do not deliberately make use of a metaphor. If you think a simile would give the desired effect on your audience better than a metaphor would do, then use a simile and not a metaphor.
  • Read it twice or thrice to make sure you are making the right choice.

What Makes a Metaphor Different from a Simile?

Though metaphors and similes are meant to make comparisons and show resemblances, they differ on some levels. Look at the table below to understand how a metaphor differs from a simile. Also, take a look at the examples given to know their usage as well.

Metaphor

Simile

It is an implied comparison.

It is a direct comparison.

Does not use any specific words to make a comparison.

Uses words such a ‘like’ or ‘as’ to make a comparison.

For example: Susan was a cheetah in the race today.

For example: Susan ran as fast as a cheetah in the race today.

Examples of Metaphors

Given below are a few examples of metaphors for your reference.

  • My mom has a heart of gold.
  • My friend’s sister, Sharon, is a night owl.
  • My hands were icicles because of the cold weather.
  • You just have to consider the world a stage and act accordingly.
  • Dileep has a stone heart.
  • You have ideas flowing one after the other. Your mind is an ocean.
  • She was an autumn leaf.
  • He is a lion when he comes to the field.
  • Phoebe is a nightingale. Everyone waited eagerly for her to come up on stage.
  • She is such a firecracker.

Check Your Understanding of Metaphors

Convert the following sentences into metaphors.

1. Natty ran as fast as a cheetah in the race.

2. Shanthi stays up all night.

3. He is like a shield to me.

4. Tom is as slow as a sloth.

5. The moon was like a broken bangle tonight.

6. Your eyes are like stars in the night sky.

7. He sits in front of the television the whole time like a couch potato.

8. Interviews are like battlefields.

9. Words are like swords; they can cut through people’s hearts and hurt them in a way that we might not even think it could.

10. She is the only one who could dance like Michael Jackson in our college.

Now, check your answers from the sentences given below.

1. Natty was a cheetah in the race.

2. Shanthi is a night owl.

3. He is my shield.

4. Tom is a sloth.

5. The moon was a broken bangle tonight.

6. Your eyes are stars.

7. He is a couch potato.

8. Interviews are battlefields.

9. Words are swords; they can cut through people’s hearts and hurt them in a way that we might not even think it could.

10. She is the Michael Jackson of our college.

Frequently Asked Questions on Metaphors in English Grammar

What is a metaphor?

A metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison, but in a way different from a simile. Instead, it makes the description of an object look as if it was literally true. In other words, it can be said that a metaphor is an implied comparison. It makes a comparison between things or ideas that are generally unlike.

What is the definition of a metaphor?

A metaphor, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is defined as “an expression, often found in literature, that describes a person or object by referring to something that is considered to have similar characteristics to that person or object.” According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, a metaphor is defined as “a word or phrase used to describe somebody/something else, in a way that is different from its normal use, in order to show that the two things have the same qualities and to make the description more powerful.” The Collins Dictionary defines a metaphor as “an imaginative way of describing something by referring to something else which is the same in a particular way”, and according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a metaphor is “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.”

What is the difference between a metaphor and a simile?

The major difference between a simile and a metaphor is that a simile uses words such as ‘like’ and ‘as’ to make a comparison whereas a metaphor does not. Another difference is that a metaphor is an implied comparison; on the other hand, a simile is a direct comparison.

Give some examples of metaphors.

Given below are a few examples of metaphors to help you understand.

  • He is a lion when he comes to the field.
  • Phoebe is a nightingale. Everyone waited eagerly for her to come up on stage.
  • My mom has a heart of gold.
  • My friend’s sister, Sharon, is a night owl.
  • My hands were icicles because of the cold weather.

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