Definition of metaphor
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 : an object, activity, or idea treated as a metaphor : symbol 2
metaphoricallyplay \-i-k(ə-)lē\ adverb
Examples of metaphor in a Sentence
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
“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
Recent Examples of metaphor from the Web
Flush with metaphor and simile, the narrative often waxes poetic, despite the true-to-life subject matter.
The fact that there are such differing perceptions of the same event on either side of the Atlantic is an eloquent metaphor for the current state of the alliance itself.
During the ceremony, Brent Jones, Seattle Public Schools’ chief strategy and partnerships officer, said the memorial forest is an apt metaphor for trauma and the power of nature to heal.
Tanika Gupta's 2011 adaptation of Dickens' novel takes Pip's journey and turns it into a metaphor for the soul of India under the Raj.
A third could consider artists’ use of light as material and metaphor.
Steering clear of visual metaphor, Visconti focuses on atmosphere and quasi-documentary detail.
There seems to be a metaphor here about how a man can't even eat his sandwich in peace anymore…
This interpenetration — part bodily metaphor, part science experiment — feels like an accurate assessment of the way we’ve come to understand our own sagging mortality.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'metaphor'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
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
METAPHOR Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of metaphor for English Language Learners
: 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
METAPHOR Defined for Kids
Definition of metaphor for Students
: 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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