: 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
Full Definition of METAPHOR
: 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
: an object, activity, or idea treated as a metaphor :symbol 2
— met·a·phor·ic\ˌme-tə-ˈfȯr-ik, -ˈfär-\ or met·a·phor·i·cal\-i-kəl\adjective
See metaphor defined for English-language learners
“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.
Her poems include many imaginative metaphors.
a poet admired for her use of metaphor
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
The hapless Humpty Dumpty often crops up as a metaphor for the second law of thermodynamics. —Charles Day, Physics Today, December 2002
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
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