noun \ˈme-tə-ˌfr also -fər\

: 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-ˈfr-ik, -ˈfär-\ or met·a·phor·i·cal \-i-kəl\ adjective
met·a·phor·i·cal·ly \-i-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of METAPHOR

  1. 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.
  2. Her poems include many imaginative metaphors.
  3. a poet admired for her use of metaphor
  4. 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

Origin 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

ablaut, allusion, anacoluthon, diacritic, gerund, idiom, infinitive, semiotics, simile


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Figure of speech in which a word or phrase denoting one kind of object or action is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in “the ship plows the seas” or “a volley of oaths”). A metaphor is an implied comparison (as in “a marble brow”), in contrast to the explicit comparison of the simile (“a brow white as marble”). Metaphor is common at all levels of language and is fundamental in poetry, in which its varied functions range from merely noting a likeness to serving as a central concept and controlling image.


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