Writing With Metaphors: Definition, Examples, List

Understanding how to use a metaphor to express yourself will make you a better writer. Well-written metaphors make your sentences or verses more interesting and engaging.

Let’s start with a definition before moving on to good metaphor examples in ad slogans, literature, and music.

Metaphor Definition

A metaphor is a figure of speech that employs a word or phrase that symbolizes something else but is not literally correct. However, a well-crafted metaphor can help explain a concept by making a comparison that the reader readily understands and can visualize.

A metaphor is essentially divided into two parts, first, the subject that is to be compared, and second, the object whose attributes the subject will be compared to. As in many of our modern-day literary tools, the term and use of metaphors started in Greek, then went into Latin with “metaphoria,” which worked its way into day-to-day English.

Here’s one thing to remember: A metaphor says that one thing is another.

So, when folks ask you, “What is a Metaphor?” you have an answer.

Metaphor Meaning

A metaphor basically suggests an analogy between two seemingly disparate items that become connected through our imagination. While metaphors and similes are both used to make comparisons and are both examples of figurative language, similes always use the words like or to make a comparison, and metaphors make the comparison directly.

Simile vs. Metaphor

This wording difference means a simile is technically a metaphor, but a metaphor is not a simile. Confused? For example, “she is as beautiful as a flower” (simile) versus “she is a flower.”

Metaphorically Speaking Meaning

To say someone is metaphorically speaking means that they are figuratively speaking — not literally speaking. It’s not really true, but it’s being said for comparison purposes and writing or talk creatively.

Metaphor in a Sentence

A metaphor features an “implied comparison,” such as “a giant spotlight hit us as the sun rose.” Obviously, the sun is not a giant spotlight, but the picture created by a giant blinding light representing the sun is very effective.

Another well-worn metaphor is “he is the black sheep of the family.” Here, the implied meaning is that a “black sheep” is different and perhaps undesirable. Just for the record, I am the black sheep of my family.

There are many types of metaphors, including, but not limited to, dead metaphors, extended metaphors, implied metaphors, and mixed metaphors.

At Greeting Card Poet, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of metaphors for you to enjoy and perhaps use in your own writings or greetings. We’ve started the list by polling our expert panel to develop the 15 best metaphors of all time.

Best Metaphors: The Poet’s Panel Picks

1.) It’s raining cats and dogs.

2.) She is drowning in a sea of love.

3.) He has a heart of gold.

4.) Hearing his voice was music to my ears.

5.) Her words cut deeper than a knife.

6.) I’m feeling blue.

7.) She was fishing for compliments.

8.) America is a melting pot.

9.) A light in a sea of darkness

10.) Time is a thief.

11.) Cry me a river.

12.) A band-aid for the problem.

13.) He broke my heart.

14.) Life is a rollercoaster.

15.) She is the apple of my eye.

Writing using metaphor.

Good Metaphors in Slogans and Advertising

Since metaphors offer the opportunity to make sometimes outrageous comparisons, it only makes sense that they are popular for use in slogans and advertising.

Like hyperboles, metaphors offer advertisers the opportunity to create visual impact in the consumer’s mind and give an implied value to their goods or services. Here are some examples of metaphors that have been effectively used in slogans and advertising over the years:

16.) No one grows ketchup like Heinz.

17.) It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

18.) A Mar’s a day helps you work, rest, and play.
Mars Candy

19.) All the news that’s fit to print.
The New York Times

20.) When it rains, it pours.
Morton Salt

21.) Real Honest Food.

22.) Taste the rainbow.

23.) A diamond is forever.

24.) Your Daily Ray of Sunshine.

25.) The Quicker Picker-upper.

26.) Stronger than dirt.

27.) The pause that refreshes.

28.) It’s What Comfort Tastes Like.

29.) Let your fingers do the walking.
Yellow Pages

30.) Connecting People.

Metaphors in Literature

Authors love to use metaphors to elicit a response from their readers that is equally emotional and visual. The pictures they paint with metaphors help convey the message of their writings.

In literature, metaphors help explain a situation, illustrate a character, set a scene, or even establish a certain mood. Metaphors provide emphasis and make passages more vivid and real. Here are some examples of metaphors in literature:

31.) All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players; they have their exits and entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being in seven ages.
William Shakespeare

32.) But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.
William Sharp

33.) Men’s words are bullets that their enemies take up and make use of against them.
George Savile

34.) The rain came down in long knitting needles.
Enid Bagnold

35.) Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food.
Austin O’Malley

36.) Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.
Faith Baldwin

37.) Exhaustion is a thin blanket tattered with bullet holes.
Mathew De Abaitua

38.) The sun in the west was a drop of burning gold that slid nearer and nearer the sill of the world.
William Golding

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Book Metaphor Examples

39.) Her mouth was a fountain of delight.
Kate Chopin

40.) The parents looked upon Matilda in particular as nothing more than a scab. A scab is something that you put up with until the time comes when you can pick it off and flick it away.
Roald Dahl

41.) The streets were a furnace, the sun an executioner.
Cynthia Ozick

42.) Love is an alchemist that can transmute poison into food – and a spaniel that prefers even punishment from one hand to caresses from another.
Charles Caleb Colton

43.) Language is a road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.
Rita Mae Brown

44.) Between the lower east side tenements, the sky is a snotty handkerchief.
Marge Piercy

45.) Well, you keep away from her because she’s a rattrap if I’ve ever seen one.
John Steinbeck

46.) Delia was an overbearing cake with condescending frosting, and frankly, I was on a diet.
Maggie Stiefvater

47.) The sun was a toddler insistently refusing to go to bed. It was past eight-thirty and still light.
John Green

48.) If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grains will grow and which will not speak to me.
William Shakespeare

49.) Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces.
Richard Kadrey

50.) Wishes are thorns, he told himself sharply. They do us no good, just stick into our skin and hurt us.
Frances Hardinge

Metaphors in Songs

Songwriters delight in painting a picture with music and words for the pleasure of their listeners. Since songwriting began, metaphors have been an integral part of the lyrics of many popular songs. Here are some examples of metaphors in songs:

51.) You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, Cryin’ all the time.
Elvis Presley

52.) ‘Cause baby you’re a firework.
Katie Perry

53.) Life is a highway; I wanna ride it all night long.
Rascal Flatts

54.) Oh, and I, I could fly higher than an eagle, for you are the wind beneath my wings, ’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.
Bette Midler

55.) You are my fire—the one I desire. Believe me when I say I want it that way.
Backstreet Boys

56.) I’m walking on sunshine. And don’t it feel good.
Katrina and the Waves

Metaphors in song image

Metaphors In Music

57.) Third floor on the West Side, me and you, handsome, you’re a mansion with a view.
Taylor Swift

58.) Life is Monopoly go cop me some land and some property.

59.) My lover’s got humor. She’s the giggle at a funeral. Knows everybody’s disapproval. I should’ve worshipped her sooner.

60.) I’m a joker. I’m a smoker. (And) I’m a midnight toker. I sure don’t want to hurt no one.
Steve Miller

61.) Fire away, fire away. You shoot me down, but I won’t fall. I am titanium.
David Guetta

62.) I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space. With the air, like I don’t care, baby, by the way.
Pharrell Williams

63.) Ooh, your love is a symphony—all around me, running through me. Ooh, your love is a melody. Underneath me, running to me. Switchfoot

64.) I have faith in what I see. Now I know I’ve met an angel in person. She looks perfect. Oh, I don’t deserve this. You look perfect tonight!
Ed Sheeran

65.) You’re a fallen star. You’re a getaway car. (And) You’re a line in the sand. When I go too far. You’re the swimming pool on an August day. And you’re the perfect thing to say.
Michael Buble

Dead Metaphor Examples

Unlike clichés, a dead metaphor is a metaphor that has been used so much that it becomes irrelevant.

66.) You light up my life.

67.) The icing on the cake.

68.) Hope is just around the corner.

69.) Life is a bowl of cherries.

70.) The elephant in the room.

71.) Sowing the seeds.

72.) Falling head over heels in love.

73.) Your time is running out.

74.) Meet the deadline.

75.) The business went belly up.

76.) This is groundbreaking.

77.) He’s a laughing stock.

78.) Time to batten down the hatches.

79.) She can’t hold a candle to you.

80.) Better nip it in the bud.

81.) Every time he flies off the handle.

82.) She’s green with envy.

83.) We’re all in the same boat.

84.) * You have to curb your spending.

85.) * He’s champing at the bit.

* Both metaphors refer to horse racing. A “curb” is the strap on a horse’s harness that goes under the lower jaw of a horse, and it controls the bit to signal the horse.

Sometimes written as “chomping at the bit,” which is incorrect. It is a horse racing reference about a horse that will chew or bite the “bit,” the part of the harness that goes in the horse’s mouth.

It means that the horse is ready to race and anxious to start, to describe a nervous, anxious, or highly motivated individual. People today, however, have no idea what these terms mean.

Irrelevant Metaphors

86.) My memory is a little cloudy.

87.) Our family is a zoo.

88.) She’s as pretty as a peacock.

89.) He is a pig when he eats.

90.) The wind was a howling wolf.

91.) The boxer is a raging bull.

92.) She’s a chicken.

93.) My teacher is a monster.

94.) He is a night owl.

95.) She is a chicken.

96.) A blanket of snow covered the ground.

97.) The parking lot was a puddle.

98.) You are a shining star.

100.) The clouds are balls of cotton.

101.) The grass is a green carpet.

102.) Her eyes are diamonds.

103.) He was so nervous his legs were rubber.

104.) She cut him down with her words.

105.) My dad is a couch potato.

106.) Life is a rollercoaster.

107.) The roads are a parking lot.

108.) His brain is a computer.

109.) His heart is a rock.

110.) The wind sailed across the pond.

111.) The road was a straight line down the hill.

Types of Metaphors

Here are some types of metaphors.

Extended Metaphor

Extended metaphors use more than one sentence, sometimes many more, to make a longer, more intricate comparison. By using more than one sentence, the writer can make a bigger-than-life picture for the reader. And extended metaphors can be used effectively for many subjects and are often used when describing nature, love, war, emotions, and other complex issues.

112.) But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!
William Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet

113.) He is a bright star, shining for all to see and helping to guide everyone to safety.

114.) A painter is an animal. Untamed and free to express their feelings and emotions.

115.) The human brain is a wonder. A flesh and blood computer that is more powerful than anything created by man.

116.) Her eyes are headlights. Bright and powerful and aimed directly at you.

Implied Metaphor

Without using specific terms, an implied metaphor compares two things simply by placing them side by side and not referring one to the other.

117.) Using her considerable skills, Mary lured Allen into her web.

118.) The traffic cop barked commands at the growing crowd.

119.) He failed miserably and left the meeting with his tail between his legs.

120.) The reporters circled nervously around the newly minted candidate.

121.) Henry squawked when his wife asked him to do some chores.

Mixed Metaphors

A mixed metaphor combines several comparisons without any real logic but in a way that delivers an interesting message.

122.) The new legislation has a flash of momentum, but the opposition is a steamroller on a fast track.

123.) Caught in a lie, Howard knew the rubber would meet the road, and the only thing he could do was punt.

124.) Read the writing on the wall, John. You must wake up and smell the coffee.

125.) It could open a can of worms exposing old wounds.

126.) He rode in on a trojan horse just to open Pandora’s box.

127.) The bases are loaded…so this is where the rubber meets the road, and we determine whether Johnson is in a league of his own.

By Tim Moodie

Tim Moodie is the Shakespeare of Greeting Card Poet. (See what I did there.) Yes, a metaphor to describe the author. Tim has been writing using all the creative tools, including metaphors, his entire adult life.


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