Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in "a sea of troubles” or "All the world's a stage” ( Shakespeare).
  • n. One thing conceived as representing another; a symbol: "Hollywood has always been an irresistible, prefabricated metaphor for the crass, the materialistic, the shallow, and the craven” ( Neal Gabler).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The use of a word or phrase to refer to something that it isn’t, invoking a direct similarity between the word or phrase used and the thing described, but in the case of English without the words like or as, which would imply a simile.
  • n. The word or phrase used in this way. An implied comparison.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The transference of the relation between one set of objects to another set for the purpose of brief explanation; a compressed simile; e. g., the ship plows the sea.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A figure of speech by which, from some supposed resemblance or analogy, a name, an attribute, or an action belonging to or characteristic of one object is assigned to another to which it is not literally applicable; the figurative transfer of a descriptive or affirmative word or phrase from one thing to another; implied comparison by transference of terms: as, the ship spread its wings to the breeze; “Judah is a lion's whelp,” Gen. xlix. 9.
  • n. Synonyms Comparison, Allegory.etc. See simile.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity

Etymologies

Middle English methaphor, from Old French metaphore, from Latin metaphora, from Greek, transference, metaphor, from metapherein, to transfer : meta-, meta- + pherein, to carry; see bher-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin metaphora, from Ancient Greek μεταφορά (metaphora), from μεταφέρω (metapherō, "I transfer, apply"), from μετά (meta, "with, across, after") + φέρω (pherō, "I bear, carry") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • -- If what is begun as a metaphor is not completed as begun, but is completed by a part of another metaphor or by plain language, we have what, is called a _mixed metaphor_.

    Higher Lessons in English A work on english grammar and composition

  • How about "Lions Led By Asses" as a less-encumbered rephrasing of the title metaphor and is probably what the original Brit bon-moticist had in mind IMHO?

    Lions Led by Donkeys

  • Never straying too far from the title metaphor, Sting depicts the rise and fall of human fortunes and emotions, the cycles of despair and hope as reliable as day after night, spring after winter, warm after cold.

    Mercury Falling

  • Well the metaphor is a dangerous one if we extend it to the British School of soccer management.

    E is for Ecology « An A-Z of ELT

  • My books are not quite the same as my children, but the metaphor is the best I can muster – I really am bothered when people say negative things about my children – I want to protect them.

    Talking Back : Kwame Dawes : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

  • And then he whacks the villain before you can say the word metaphor.

    Rapture Ready!

  • Our visions of what our society is, what it could be, and what it should be, are all structures of metaphor, because the metaphor is the unit of all imagination.

    The Authority of Learning

  • "A lot of science-fiction will use the word metaphor - that their spaceship is a metaphor for human society," he continues.

    The Globe and Mail - Home RSS feed

  • The word "metaphor" comes from the Greek and means "to carry beyond."

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  • Weidenbaum: It’s interesting talking to you, because you use the term metaphor but you don’t speak in metaphors.

    Disquiet » Popp Music

Comments

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  • History is an angel being blown backwards into the future.

    November 1, 2011

  • And "Pop goes the weasel."

    March 29, 2009

  • A metaphor for our times: "This social networking comedy of errors spread like dancing hamsters across Twitter."

    -Twitter Gets You Fired in 140 Characters or Less

    March 29, 2009

  • Some Bulwer-Lytton entries:

    Fingers of lightning goosed the sphincter of night, and below, the streets of Cleveland began their peristaltic movement toward the witching hour.

    (Enid Shomer, Peg Libertus; Gainesville, FL)

    Not unlike the country in between Nigeria and the Sudan, his name was Chad.

    What is this sad world but an infinitesimal dust bunny in the unimaginably vast broom closet we call the universe?

    (Jeff Kruse; Van Nuys, CA)

    July 27, 2008

  • Some gems there, oroboros. Hugely enjoyable. Ta for sharing.

    July 7, 2008

  • Metaphors found in high school essays: Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual similes and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are some of the best:

    The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

    The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

    From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy" comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30.

    Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.

    Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

    He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.

    Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like "Second Tall Man."

    Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

    The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can.

    John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

    The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.

    His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

    The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon.

    Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

    The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

    He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant with cement shoes, and she was the East River.

    Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

    The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

    The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for awhile.

    He was as lame as a duck--not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

    It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

    He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

    (And a few really gross ones. Caveat lector!)

    She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

    The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

    She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

    McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty Bag filled with Hungry-Man soup.

    July 7, 2008

  • A metaphor is like an older brother: It can at times sound poetic and intelligent, but far too often just makes a mess of ordinary situations.

    It's also jealous that I described it with a simile. Perhaps I should add a note about personification?

    January 16, 2007

  • I thought you were speaking metaphorically.

    January 16, 2007

  • I was trying to make an analogy. ;-)

    January 15, 2007

  • I wouldn't say "sophisticated", or "older", but more "poetic".

    January 14, 2007

  • The sophisticated older brother of the simile.

    January 13, 2007