What is a Metaphor? Examples, Definition and Types


Metaphor is a figurative language that creates a comparison between two different things. It expresses a meaning beyond what it exhibits literally. Metaphors are widely used in various literary works to bring creative writing styles. This tutorial will assist you in getting valuable information about the details of metaphors.

What is a Metaphor?

A metaphor is a literary device that addresses a comparison between two contrasting things. To define metaphor, we can also say that it is a figurative language that brings comparison between two things to highlight common traits.

The Greek word 'metaphora' means 'to transfer'. Metaphors help to blend the meaning of any literary work effortlessly with comparisons. Comparisons work like instances that create visual or imaginary thoughts among the readers, making the writing enjoyable. A writer can produce precise sentences with deep meaning using metaphors, and the reader can easily understand them without further description.


  • Life is a rollercoaster.

    In the sentence, we compare 'life' with 'rollercoaster'. Two things are entirely different. Here we are addressing something similar between these two. And describing with such a comparison clarifies the meaning to the reader. A rollercoaster is a ride usually seen on fair ground, and one can move up and down while riding it, just like living a life. Thus the metaphor denotes the deep meaning of the above sentence.

Types of Metaphor

Types of metaphors that we generally see in the English language are

  • Standard Metaphor
  • Visual Metaphor
  • Implied Metaphor
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Mixed Metaphor
  • Dead Metaphor

Standard metaphors

Standard metaphors are direct and clear. Such metaphors set comparisons between two contrasting things explicitly.


The moon is the silver ball shining in the middle of the dark.

In this sentence, 'the moon' is compared to 'silver ball'.

Visual metaphors

Visual metaphors are all about comparing two contrasting objects with graphic or visual effects. It can be through the medium of a picture, art or some other visual presentation.

For example, in an advertisement for running shoes, if the shoes are compared to the cheetah showing them side by side, it is a visual metaphor.

The visual effect of the cheetah will remind us of 'speed'. And we can easily compare it to shoes.

Implied metaphors

Implied metaphors show an indirect comparison between two different objects or things. Here one object is not mentioned but expressed indirectly by showing its characteristics through the other.


  • Pamela galloped to the store to shop for Christmas.

    We are comparing Pamela's action to 'a horse' by mentioning 'galloped'.

  • Kind words nourished his empty heart.

    We are comparing 'kind words' to 'food' by mentioning 'nourished'.

Extended metaphors

Extended metaphors allow the writer to write comparisons that can be extended through paragraphs of prose or stanzas of poems. It helps to provide the reader with a vivid comparison of the things

For example, if the writer is writing a story about a thief, then a fox can be an ideal comparison to the thief. And the writer presents the dishonesty metaphorically by writing a story of a fox.

Mixed metaphors

Mixed metaphors are the combination of unrelated metaphors (two or more). It imparts hilarious expression in writing.


  • Wake up and smell the coffee on the wall.

    We are not supposed to smell or drink coffee from the wall. So this expression is hilarious!

Dead metaphors

Dead metaphors have lost actual meanings with time for overuse. So, it is controversial if dead metaphors should be included in the list of metaphors. We only consider the figurative meanings of such metaphors.


  • Head over heels (Literal meaning: upside down, figurative meaning: excitement in love or something else)

  • Hang up the phone (Literal meaning: cut the phone call by placing it back at the receiver, figurative meaning: to end a phone call, including mobile phones)

  • Go belly up (Literal meaning: death of a fish, figurative meaning: bankrupt)

Uses of Metaphor

If you are describing the characteristics of a person or a thing, you have to write multiple lines. The writing might turn into a wordy piece losing its charm. But a short comparison with metaphor does the same job with precision and style.

For example, if you are describing a person's gloomy mind state, you can write in multiple lines. But you can also write: His mind looks cloudy today! Here 'cloudy' is a metaphor creating a comparison between 'his mind' and 'cloudy sky'. So, two words from different domains can be compared with metaphors. And you can create such amazing one-liners using metaphors.

Metaphors can create imaginary effects in the readers' minds. The reader can sense fear, joy, love or other emotions or situations with the help of metaphors.


  • He is the morning of my life.

    Here 'morning' means illumination. And 'he' is comparable to 'morning' means he brings 'light'. While reading the sentence, we imagine that 'morning' stands for 'light'.

Do not mix metaphors with similes. The latter always includes 'like' or 'as' to set a comparison between two contrasting things.


Using metaphors in own writing can make it interesting and engaging. But you must use it rarely so that the charm of the metaphor persists in the readers' minds. The types and uses of metaphors will definitely help you to understand how to write with metaphors. Reading literary works with metaphors will be now easier to understand too!


Q1. What do you understand by 'metaphor'?

Ans. A metaphor is a figurative language that brings comparison between two different things to focus on similar characteristics.

Q2. What is the primary difference between metaphor and simile?

Ans. Unlike metaphor, a simile includes 'like' or 'as' to set a comparison between two things from different domains.

Q3. Why do we use a metaphor?

Ans. The purpose of using metaphor is to create a comparison so that the reader can relate to two different things identifying similar attributes. It helps to make writing more engaging with precise information.

Q4. How frequent should you use metaphors while writing?

Ans. You must avoid using metaphors in writing frequently. Otherwise, the writing loses its charm and sounds complicated.


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