1 Definition
2 Examples
3 Classification
3.1 dead metaphor3.2 extended metaphor
3.3 mixed metaphor
4 Metaphor VS Simile
5 Activities
6 References
7 External links

Metaphor is one type of figurative language which can make the description more powerful. A metaphor is an implied comparison of things basically unlike one another and is used in an imaginative way to describe somebody or something else, in order to show that the two things have the same qualities. It expresses the unfamiliar (the tenor) in terms of the familiar (the vehicle).(5)

Look at these examples of metaphors with sample sentences and meanings(10):
Metaphor example
Metaphorical sense
America is a melting pot.
America is a place where different peoples, styles and cultures are mixed together
John is a real pig when he eats.
John is greedy when he eats.
My father is a rock.
My father is a very strong or reliable person

Above are all metaphors in the formula of A is B, they are nominal metaphors. But sometimes the formula of A is B is not available, then, noun, verb, adjective, adverb can help us to find out what A is. (11)

Examples are as follow:

² The committee shot her ideas down one by one. Usually, we use shoot down in the case like “anti-aircraft guns shoot down planes”. So here “her idea” is the tenor, and the sentences means that her ideas are refused or criticized by the committee.

² My father’s mood seemed more thunderous than usual. “my father’s mood” is the tenor. The sentence means that my father’s mood is bad.

² The idea of becoming a writer had come to me on and off since my childhood. On off are often used to describe the light. Here “

the idea of becoming a write” is the tenor and the sentence means that the idea of becoming a writer had come to me from time to time.

Metaphors can render your writing more vivid. Let’s make comparisons between plain sentences and sentences using metaphors.(11)
Plain language
I absolutely loved bargains and will take the trouble to find them.
I absolutely loved bargains and will go a lot out of my way to find them.
Our voices were covered up by the roars of applause.
Our voices were drowned out by the roars of applause.
He shouted loudly to his audience.
He thundered loudly to his audience.


Metaphor is a ubiquitous feature of natural language. Commonly we can classify metaphors into three types.
1 Dead metaphor
This refers to the metaphor whose once-evocative transferred image is no longer effective or even understood (6) and whose
original literal meaning has been lost through extensive popular usage.(7) This kind of metaphor can be understood without knowing
their earlier connotation.
Take the noun phrase electric current for example. Originally, electricity is spoken of as if it were a current probably because both
are in a smooth and rapid flow. But now few people take notice of its metaphorical nature. Instead, it is generally used as a common
collocation. (8) (12)
2 Extended metaphor
This is also called conceit, which is a longer metaphor that continues the comparison for several sentences or even paragraphs or
the whole text. (3) It is often developed at great length, occurring frequently in or throughout a work, and is especially effective in
poems and fictions.
For example, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances; And
one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms…"
– William Shakespeare
This is probably one of the most popular examples of an extended metaphor. In this, the world is compared to a stage and the
comparison extends to the roles of people. Thus the comparison was drawn continues in the following sentences as well.
3 Mixed metaphor
The awkward use of two or more different metaphors at the same time is normally best avoided. It creates conflicting images in the reader or listener's mind, reduces each metaphor's impact, and generally causes confusion.
For example president Barack Obama once made a comment that some people think that he is "green behind the ears”. In this phrase, Obama mixed “wet behind the ears” with “green”, which are two different metaphors that mean someone is naive, young, or inexperienced. (9)

Metaphor VS Simile

Sometimes we are easily to confuse metaphor and simile.

Let’s start with examples of metaphor and simile. When we say "All the world's a stage," we create a metaphor and it's a simile to say "All the world is like a stage." Not a big difference in meaning, isn't it? But it's the kind of thing you can get tripped up on if you're in school and you have to take a test about similes and metaphors.(9)

Actually, their differences are obvious. When you say something is something, you use a metaphor. While when you say something is like something, you use a simile.(6) The primary difference is that a simile uses the word like or as to compare two things, while a metaphor simply suggests that the dissimilar things are the same without using indicators of resemblance.

Here is a list of metaphors and similes (6):



her hair was silk
her hair was like silk
meaner than Oscar the Grouch
mean as Oscar the Grouch
her gaze was icy
her gaze was like ice

There are some verbal metaphors related to animals.(11) Please fill in the blanks.


ANSWERS: wolfed pigged fox craned ducked


(12) Yang Xinzhang: An Introduction to Linguistic

External links
This is an essay agues about that metaphor is a tool of discovery, providing a way of imposing or discovering structure within novel or unfamiliar situations.
This is an essay about the function of metaphor.
This is an essay written by a Chinese teacher, talking about the role of culture in metaphor by illustrating across-cultural variation and evidence of Chinese metaphorical concepts and expressions.