Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

What Is a Metaphor (with Examples)

What Is a Metaphor? (with Examples)

A metaphor asserts that one thing is something that it literally is not. A metaphor is a figure of speech.

Examples of Metaphors

Here are some examples of metaphors:
  • She is a fox.
  • Dave is a bad apple.
  • His face was a blue moon pocked with craters.
  • Her eyes were darting searchlights, scanning the room for her rival.
  • An icy stare
Metaphors are not always easy to spot. They are not always in the form "A = B" like the first four examples above. Sometimes, a metaphor is an adjective that modifies a noun, as in the fifth example.

The bottom line is this: If something is being re-identified as (i.e., not compared to) something that it literally is not, then you're looking at a metaphor.

Famous Metaphors (Examples)

Here are some metaphors by famous people:
  • Conscience is a manís compass.
  • (Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890)
  • All religions, arts, and sciences are branches of the same tree.
  • (Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, 1879-1955)
  • All at once he was alone in this noisy hive with no place to roost.
  • (Tom Wolfe)

Funny Metaphors (Examples)

Here are some funny metaphors:
  • Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke.
  • John and Mary had never met. They were two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  • True friends stab you in the front.
  • (Oscar Wilde)
Interactive Test
 
 

Take the similes test.
Top Tip

Metaphors Can Be Impactful

Used sparingly in business writing (e.g., just once in the occasional document), metaphors can:
  • Be memorable.
  • Make an impact.
  • Be used for emphasis.
  • Make you look confident.
Here is an example of how a metaphor might look in a business document:
  • Option 1 is throwing the pilot from a stricken aircraft to make it lighter.
Beware

Overuse of Metaphors

While a metaphor can be a great way to clarify or promote an idea in a business document, the overuse of metaphors looks flippant. Metaphors which are cliches (i.e., a tired metaphor) also look bad.

Use metaphors very sparingly in business writing to ensure they remain impactful.