Metaphor- Definition and Examples

What is a Metaphor?

A metaphor is a literary device that is used to make an implicit, implied, or hidden comparison between two things that are unrelated but share some common characteristics. A metaphor differs from a simile in the way that it is formed; simile's use like or as to develop a comparison, whereas a metaphor does not. 

A simile states that A is like B
A metaphor states that A is B or B is A 

A simile asserts* a similarity of the two objection in a comparison. 
A Metaphor asserts the two objects in a comparison.
(Columbia Encyclopedia 6th edition) 

A metaphor is sometimes used as a way to give readers a fresh perspective or understanding of the things being compared.

What is an Extended Metaphor?

An extended metaphor is a literary device that is used to make an implicit, implied, or hidden comparison between two things that continues throughout a series of sentences, a paragraph, or a few lines of a poem. 

What is a Mixed Metaphor?

A mixed metaphor is a literary device that uses a succession of incongruous* comparisons. It is often used to parody the metaphor itself.

Other Types of Metaphors 




Commonly Used Metaphors in Everyday Speech

night owl

early bird

life is a journey

music to one's ears

clear skies

that was a breeze

a heart of gold

busy as a bee

fly like a bird

light of my life

What are some famous examples of a metaphor?

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their entrances and their exits; 
-William Shakespeare's As You Like It (Jaques- Act 2, Scene 7)

She is all states, and all princes, I.
-John Donne The Sun Rising

And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
-William Shakespeare Sonnet 35, line 4

What are some examples of an Extended Metaphor

And witnessed exultation--
Faces that used to curse me, scowl for scowl,
Shine and lift up with passion of oblation,
Seraphic for an hour; though they were foul.
-Wilfred Owen Apologia Pro Poemate Meo, lines 13-16

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimmed. 
Buy thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:  
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. 
-William Shakespeare Sonnet 18  

Through the pregnant universe rumbles life's terrific thunder,
And Earth's bowels quake with terror; strange and terrible storms break,
Lightning-torches flame the heavens, kindling souls of men, thereunder:
Africa! Long ages sleeping, O my motherland, awake!

Right so your selfe were caught in cunning snare
Of a deare foe, and thralled to his love:
In whose streight bands ye now captive are
So firmely, that ye never may remove.
-Edmund Spenser Amoretti: Sonnet 71 


Side Notes

*Assert- state a fact or belief confidently and forcefully
*Incongruous- strange because of not agreeing with what is usual or expected

"Metaphor." Online Etymology Dictonary. 22 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Metaphor." Literary Devices: Definition and Example of Literary Terms. 22 Apr 2016. <>.

Wikipedia contributors. "Metaphor." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 13 Apr. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <>.

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