11 Types of Metaphors in English (Definitions & Examples)

What is a Metaphor?

Metaphor is a figure of speech in which two completely unlike things are compared by saying that one thing is the other one without joining the phrase “like” or “as.” Using metaphors, we capture some abstract concepts by relating them to more general or simpler patterns.

Types of Metaphors

1. Conventional Metaphors

Conventional metaphor is a great example of a highly popular similarity that people easily recognizes and perceives as part of a norm and thus may be used in daily conversation.

Examples:

  • Time is money.
  • Life is a journey.
  • Love is a battlefield.

2. Creative Metaphors

Creative metaphors are original comparisons that offer a fresh perspective on a subject. This is due to their nature of evoking imagery that triggers the reader or listener to use their mind more or to comprehend the message to its fullest.

Examples:

  • Her eyes were pools of endless sorrow.
  • The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas. (from “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes)
  • The sun was a giant light bulb that illuminated the earth.

3. Extended Metaphors

Extended metaphors are also known as sustained metaphors. They are comparisons that are continually expressed through the whole piece of writing sometimes ultimately described over multiple sentences or paragraphs. 

An example from “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.”

4. Mixed Metaphors

A mixed metaphor occurs when two or more dissimilar disparages are assembled in one sentence or phrase, usually causing funny or confusion. 

Examples:

  • The project was a roller coaster ride that sailed through uncharted waters.
  • The company was a well-oiled machine that hit the ground running.

5. Dead Metaphors

Dead metaphors are such metaphors that have been excessively used to the point where their true meaning is not easily grasped. They are perceived as mere similes when in actual fact they are metaphors. 

Examples:

  • The leg of the table.
  • The hands of the clock.
  • The heart of the matter.

6. Visual Metaphors

Visual metaphors are non-verbal comparisons. They use images, symbols and objects to represent abstract ideas and concepts. Examples include:

  • A dove represents peace.
  • A red rose symbolizes love.
  • A broken chain represents freedom.

7. Implied Metaphors

Implied metaphors are comparisons that are not explicitly stated. They are suggested through the context or imagery used. 

Examples:

  • The classroom was a zoo.
  • The silence was deafening.
  • The news hit her like a ton of bricks.

8. Synesthetic Metaphors

Synesthetic metaphors are used to compare one sense with another. For example to describe a sound in terms of color or a taste in terms of texture. 

Examples:

  • The music was a vibrant splash of color in the darkness.
  • Her voice was as smooth as silk.
  • The spices danced on my tongue.

9. Personification

Personification is a type of metaphor that attributes human qualities, actions and emotions to non-human entities, like objects, animals and abstract concepts. 

Examples:

  • The wind whispered through the trees.
  • Time creeps up on you when you least expect it.
  • The flowers danced in the gentle breeze.

10. Hyperbolic Metaphors

Hyperbolic metaphors use exaggeration to create a more intense and dramatic comparison. These metaphors are often used to emphasize a particular quality and characteristic. They help to convey strong emotions and opinions. 

Examples:

  • I have a million things to do today.
  • Her smile was brighter than the sun.
  • He’s drowning in a sea of paperwork.

11. Cultural Metaphors

Cultural metaphors are comparisons that rely on cultural knowledge, traditions and customs to create meaning. These metaphors may be specific to a particular region, language, or group of people and can help establish a sense of shared understanding or identity. Examples include:

  • She is the black sheep of the family. (Western culture)
  • “He is a real dragon when it comes to business. (Chinese culture)
  • The project was a Sisyphean task. (Greek mythology)
Types of Metaphors (Definitions and Examples)
Types of Metaphors (Definitions and Examples)

Importance of Metaphors

Metaphors play a vital role in language and communication by::

Enhancing Understanding: Metaphors gives a grasp of difficult or abstract by constructing the idea between familiar/concrete experience, making it understandable.

Evoking Emotions: Through the use of metaphors, one can produce powerful mental images, which may then turn to strong emotions when listeners or readers try to connect to the message in a more personal and intense way.

Encouraging Creativity: Metaphors contribute to amazing method of delivering thoughts in the form of abstract, symbolic and out-of-the-box ways that demonstrates such fact that authors have creativity and originality.

Facilitating Memory: The representations and images achieved with metaphors are so vivid and memorable that the message will remain etched in the listener’s and the reader’s memory well after they’ve heard or read them.

Function of Metaphors

Metaphors serve several important functions in language and literature:

Description: It allows one to better define person, object and experience in a lively and thoughtful manner, leading a reader or a listener to imagine that they are the very beholder of these elements.

Emphasis: A member of the metaphorical clan is a metaphor, which brings together elements that provoke the comparison of two things that are unlike each other. By doing this, the metaphor enhances the importance or significance of a specific characteristic or quality.

Persuasion: Metaphors are employed to motivate the reader/ listeners view of things and the attractiveness of a point of argument might impact their thinking process as well.

Exploration: For writers and speakers metaphors are a perfect tool for the investigation of unfamiliar thoughts and notions by comparing them to the more familiar conclusions that lead to unexpected results, to discoveries.

Conclusion

Metaphor is a rhetorical strategy that is used to find you an effective way of communication and self-expression. It highlights some recognizable feature that actually relates to the unknown one. Through learning the diverse types of metaphors and the functions, writers and speakers produce more diverse content that is moving, convincing and memorable by means of setting the right mood with their audience.

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