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Metaphor: Definition, How It Works & Examples In Writing

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If you’re a content creator wondering how to write a blog post, you may have run into some concerns.

What are some good things to write about?

More importantly, how do you make your writing interesting?

Writing engaging content can be tricky, but certain literary devices can take your writing to the next level.

The metaphor is one of the most prominent literary devices.

Here, we’ll define a metaphor and discuss its uses in writing.

What Is a Metaphor?

A metaphor is a literary device for describing something in a non-literal way.

Also known as:

  • Figure of speech
  • Correlation
  • Metonymy

Simple Definition: How To Explain a Metaphor to a Child

A metaphor compares one thing to another.

The easiest way to explain this would be to make a real-life comparison.

For example, you could call stars “diamonds in the sky.”

They aren’t, but they sparkle like diamonds.

Why Is a Metaphor Used?

Metaphors are used for emphasis and to help explain an idea or feeling.

Have you ever been so thirsty you’ve exclaimed, “I’m dying of thirst”?

Unless you’re stranded in the desert, you’re likely not being literal.

In this example, the word “dying” emphasizes the discomfort you feel.

Types of Metaphors

There are four types of metaphors: standard, implied, visual, and extended.

1. Standard Metaphors

When you think of a metaphor, you’ll likely think of a standard one.

These state that two different things are the same. In a formulaic definition, you can think of it as X is Y.

2. Implied Metaphors

An implied metaphor compares two things without mentioning what is being compared.

For instance, “he hoofed it down the street.”

Here, the implied metaphor compares a man running like a horse without mentioning the animal.

3. Visual Metaphors

A visual metaphor is commonly used in advertising.

An example is a PDFA commercial about a man cracking an egg into the frying pan that states, “this is your brain on drugs.”

The visual metaphor here is that drugs fry your brain.

4. Extended Metaphors

An extended metaphor spans multiple lines. It’s commonly used in poetry.

Take the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost as an example.

In the poem, he compares life to a long road full of twists and turns.

How Do You Identify a Metaphor?

Metaphors are one of the most common figures of speech.

If you find yourself comparing two things in your mind to understand the meaning of a statement, i.e., “that car is a lemon,” then you’ve used one.

How Do You Use a Metaphor in a Sentence?

You’re probably using a bunch of metaphors without even knowing it!

But, if you want to add a little flair to your writing, you can think of a comparison to a mundane statement.

For example, instead of saying, “I typically stay up very late,” you can say, “I’m a night owl.”

That is a metaphor because you are not an owl.

However, you like to stay up late, and owls are nocturnal creatures.

So, in this case, you’re comparing yourself to an owl.

Night owl is an example of a standard metaphor since you’re stating X (you) is Y (owl).

These metaphors are usually simplistic, but there are other more complex ones, like extended metaphors, you can use to enthrall your audience.

A famous example of an extended metaphor is from As You Like It by William Shakespeare: “The world is a stage, / where everyone is a player, / and then the curtain falls.”

Here, Shakespeare compares life to a play, humans to actors, and death to the final curtain call.

What Is the Most Popular Example of a Metaphor?

There are metaphors aplenty in the English language, so it’s hard to choose the most popular example of a metaphor.

However, one that everyone has heard and has likely used a few times is “a piece of cake.”

You might have come across this phrase after asking someone how a particular event went.

For example, you might ask your friend how a job interview went, and they reply, “it was a piece of cake.”

This metaphor is a great illustration of how our brains are so accustomed to metaphors that they are hard-wired to comprehend what a person is saying without thinking twice.

Of course, we all know that the friend found that interview easy.

But what’s easy about a piece of cake?

Cakes take quite a bit of effort to get right.

However, eating a piece of that cake is much easier and practically effortless.

So, we use “a piece of cake” to describe an incredibly easy situation—to the point that it’s enjoyable.

Other Famous Examples of Metaphors

  • “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” – Getting revenge on someone is more satisfying if you wait and think about it.
  • “Life is a highway.” – Life often changes pace and is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and risks. There’s also a starting point and final destination.
  • “That’s music to my ears.” – Satisfying information or good news that brightens your mood.

Other Modern Examples of Metaphors

Metaphors are used often in English—we use multiple metaphors throughout the day when speaking.

With so many metaphors being thrown around, you’re sure to recognize some of the following.

Metaphors in Everyday Life

  • “Talking to a brick wall.” – Talking to someone who is being unresponsive or won’t accept what you’re saying.
  • “Light in my life.” – Someone or something that brings joy to your life, frequently used to describe someone you love very much.
  • “Blowing off steam.” – Taking time away to get your emotions under control, such as stepping away from a stressful situation or removing yourself from an argument.

Metaphors for Kids

  • “It’s a zoo in here.” – The environment is chaotic, and everyone is out of control.
  • “A couch potato.” – Someone who is inactive and thus resembles a round, bulgy potato.
  • “I could eat a horse.” – You’re so hungry that you have enough room in your stomach to fit a horse.

Metaphors in Literature

  • “The frosted wedding cake of the ceiling.” – Describes the image of the stippled appearance of the ceiling in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • “Her mouth was a fountain of delight.” – It illustrates the pleasant words a character speaks in The Storm by Emily Chopin.
  • “But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” – This refers to Juliet’s beauty and light in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Notable Writers Who Used Metaphors

Metaphors are kind of a big deal in the literary world.

Here are some prominent writers who are well-known for their metaphors.

William Shakespeare

We’ve already touched on our good friend Shakespeare a couple of times.

That’s because he was an avid user of metaphors.

Shakespeare gave the world “love is blind, and lovers cannot see.”

It’s usually shortened to “love is blind,” meaning that two people in love cannot recognize certain features or faults that outsiders do.

Emily Dickinson

Metaphors are used heavily in poetry.

The notable poet Emily Dickinson was no stranger to a good metaphor.

One of her more prominent metaphors comes from her poem “‘Hope’ is a thing with feathers”:

In her work, she compares the feeling of hope to a bird, as hope often elevates our outlook and frees us from our doubts, much like a bird in flight.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff is a famous American linguist with a special place in his heart for metaphors; he even wrote a book about them!

In Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff argues that conceptual metaphors significantly influence people’s lives.

He notes arguments are referred to in war terms to validate his points further.

For example:

  • She won the argument.
  • His claims are indefensible.
  • They shot down all my ideas.

What Is the Opposite of a Metaphor?

The opposite of a metaphor is a literal statement, such as a fact, historical narrative, or record.

Metaphor vs. Similes

It’s easy to mix up metaphors and similes.

Both involve comparing two things to express an idea or feeling.

Simile is slightly more obvious than a metaphor.

A simile compares something by stating it is like something else, while a metaphor compares something by stating it is something else.

For instance, the classic line from Forrest Gump, “life is like a box of chocolates,” is a simile because Forrest is stating that the randomness of life is similar to the assortment in a box of chocolates.

If he stated, “life is a box of chocolates,” that would be a metaphor.

Other Related Literary Devices To Know

Different types of content call for different literary devices.

Here are some of the most common you should know.

  • Hyperbole: Hyperbole is used to deliberately exaggerate something in an obvious, non-literal way. For example, when lifting something very heavy, you might say, “This thing weighs a ton.”
  • Alliteration: Alliteration is the consecutive use of the same letter or sound in a string of words. For instance, “She sells seashells by the seashore.”
  • Oxymoron: An oxymoron is the use of contradictory terms in conjunction. Terms like “jumbo shrimp” and “accurate estimate” are oxymorons.
  • Analogy: An analogy compares two things; a metaphor is a type of analogy. An example of an analogy is comparing a brain to a computer.
  • Irony: Irony has several uses. It’s typically used to express something opposite from the expectation. For instance, after encountering a grumpy cashier, you might say, “they must really love their job.” There’s also situational irony, such as a police station being robbed.

Writing Tools To Help You Out

If you’re just starting your blog, it’s wise to use a helper for writing content to make it more engaging.

Below are the best writing tools for each.

1. Writing Helpers

Writing helpers assist you with grammar, punctuation, style, and engagement.

They spot mistakes, usage of passive voice, and difficult sentences.

Hemingway App and Wordtune will analyze your content and highlight areas to be changed for clearer writing and better audience engagement.

2. AI Writing Software

AI-based writing software can generate captivating headlines and attractive long-form content for blogs, social media profiles, websites, emails, and advertisements.

With Jasper and WordAI, you simply paste what you want to write about or what content you already have. Then, AI will expand upon the ideas and/or rewrite them.

3. Grammar Checkers

A grammar checker is one of the most important tools for content creators, whatever types of writers use them.

After all, readers are more likely to trust your authority if your writing is clear and concise.

Some of the best grammar checkers for ensuring quality are Grammarly and QuillBot.

Both of these have a free version, so you can try them out before upgrading to a premium version.

4. Content Creators

There are several types of content creators.

If you want to make your social media posts and advertisements more appealing, try Canva to create eye-catching visuals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few common questions about metaphors to give you a better understanding of this literary device.

What part of speech is a metaphor?

A metaphor is a form of figurative language.

Figurative language refers to expressions that stray from reality.

Creative writing wouldn’t exist without it.

Writers use figurative language, such as comparisons and exaggerations, to add creative flourish through imagery, making their words more powerful.

How do you pronounce metaphor?

You pronounce metaphor as “MEH-TUH-FOR,” with the stress on the first syllable.

If you’re a native English speaker, you’ve likely heard the digraph word “metaphor” before reading it.

A digraph is when two letters combine to make a different sound, like the “PH” in metaphor sounding like the letter “F.”

Wrapping Up

If you’re looking for tips for writing great content, using literary devices in your writing is one of the best pieces of advice.

Metaphor is a great way to express yourself creatively and engage your audience.

But, you don’t want your writing to be too challenging to understand, so it’s best to stick to standard metaphors for blogs, ads, or social media posts.

Remember, good writing is a windowpane—transparent.

See what we did there?

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