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noun met·a·phor \ˈme-tə-ˌfȯr also -fər\

Simple Definition of metaphor

  • : a word or phrase for one thing that is used to refer to another thing in order to show or suggest that they are similar

  • : an object, activity, or idea that is used as a symbol of something else

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of metaphor

  1. 1 :  a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money); broadly :  figurative language — compare simile

  2. 2 :  an object, activity, or idea treated as a metaphor :  symbol 2


play \ˌme-tə-ˈfȯr-ik, -ˈfär-\ or


play \-i-kəl\ adjective


play \-i-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of metaphor in a sentence

  1. You see, menudo is our chicken soup for the body and soul, our metaphor for bread-and-butter issues. —Joe Rodriguez, San Jose Mercury News, 20 May 2003

  2. The hapless Humpty Dumpty often crops up as a metaphor for the second law of thermodynamics. —Charles Day, Physics Today, December 2002

  3. Ben Strong, senior, football player, leader of the prayer group, the boy whose very name is a metaphor, has been besieged by the media for interviews. —Jayne Anne Phillips, Harper's, November 1998

  4. The number of songs containing ambiguous metaphors and intriguing but obscure symbolism could be extended indefinitely. Still, … there are hollers, work songs, field songs, and blues whose meaning is really not subject to a great deal of interpretation. —Lawrence W. Levine, “The Concept of the New Negro,” 1971, in The Unpredictable Past, 1993

  5. He was drowning in paperwork is a metaphor in which having to deal with a lot of paperwork is being compared to drowning in an ocean of water.

  6. Her poems include many imaginative metaphors.

  7. a poet admired for her use of metaphor

simile vs. metaphor

Many people have trouble distinguishing between simile and metaphor. A glance at their Latin and Greek roots offers a simple way of telling these two closely-related figures of speech apart. Simile comes from the Latin word similis (meaning “similar, like”), which seems fitting, since the comparison indicated by a simile will typically contain the words as or like. Metaphor, on the other hand, comes from the Greek word metapherein (“to transfer”), which is also fitting, since a metaphor is used in place of something. “My love is like a red, red rose” is a simile, and “love is a rose” is a metaphor.

Origin and Etymology of metaphor

Middle English methaphor, from Middle French or Latin; Middle French metaphore, from Latin metaphora, from Greek, from metapherein to transfer, from meta- + pherein to bear — more at bear

First Known Use: 15th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

METAPHOR Defined for Kids


noun met·a·phor \ˈme-tə-ˌfȯr\

Definition of metaphor for Students

  1. :  a figure of speech comparing two unlike things without using like or as <“Their cheeks were roses” is a metaphor while “their cheeks were like roses” is a simile.>

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